Welcome to The Gadget Chef

Ok so I'm not really a chef, but I do like to play one in the kitchen. I'm your everyday average guy, who is really into 2 things, food and gadgets! And I love combining the two and experimenting with that.

I've tried many gadgets out there, some with success and some with miserable failures. But my biggest goal is to limit what space I take up with what gadgets. As a person with a less than sizable kitchen, counter top real estate is so important I can't be the type that has several gadgets out all the time, and I'm also the type that if it's not out and handy, I'm likely not to use it.

So through the course of this blog I will give out some info on those items I've gotten over the years and how I use them, and some recipes, and be sure to share yours too, or comment if you've tried them

Monday, December 3, 2012

Quick vegetable Lo Mein

Lo Mein is probably one of the things I like the most when I pick up Chinese carryout.  After many tries I finally found one that I make at home that I like just as much, and can easily be made just about any night,  assuming you have some good egg noodles handy.

My Vegetable Lo Mein

To start with this recipe, let me say I've tried making lo mein at home many times, with some less than stellar results.  Most of the time I started with some linguine noodles.  Unfortunately after all those attempts I found that the problem with them all was just that, the noodles.  Most pasta you get from the store has a high percentage of semolina flour, if not completely made from that.  While semolina gives you a wonderful pasta for italian foods, the results for lo mein are just not right.

Now in my previous post I mentioned my new pasta roller, this was the key to my lo mein.  I made some basic egg noodles straight off the recipe book that came with the roller. It makes a wonderful egg noodle, that is just perfect for this chinese dish.  Now if you don't want to make your own noodles, which I warn you, once you start, going back to some store bought box of noodles becomes very tough to do, you can buy some egg noodles, just try to avoid typical boxed pasta that has semolina and go for a basic egg noodle, for me I like something sized around the same as linguini.

As far as a recipe goes, this is going to be the most imprecise recipe you might ever read, but that's because I think lo mein is something that is cooked very much to taste, so I could say 2 tbsp of this and 1 tsp of that, but yours and mine tastes might disagree highly, so play around and find what you like.  The other beauty of this recipe is that with only some minor differences, you can turn it into a wonderful fried rice which I will talk about as well soon.

The basic ingredients that I start with are as follows:

egg Noodles
wok oil
green onions
oyster sauce
fish sauce
soy sauce
salt and pepper
and sometimes I even add some frozen peas

Cook your noodles as per your directions,  now me sometimes I will cook them a little longer, as I like a pretty soft noodle for lo mein, however you need to be careful, too long, and you will have lo mush, and not lo mein.

While your noodles are cooking, melt some butter in your wok, it doesn't take much just enough to coat the bottom of your wok, so your eggs won't stick too much, if you have a good non stick wok you can cut way back on it if you like.  Then scramble up your eggs, at our house we like a good bit of egg in ours, so I tend to use 3 to 4 eggs, it's also how I sneak in some extra protein into my vegetarian wife's diet.  Once you have your eggs scrambled, take them out and set them into a bowl for later.

Next I have to clean out the bit of egg that is left in the pan, my wok is not the most non stick item I have, and I don't want a ton of burnt egg in my lo mein.  Then I add some wok oil and a clove or 2 of minced garlic, depending on the size of the clove and how many vampires I want to keep away, but a lot of this is purely to your taste, if you like a lot of garlic go for 2 or more, but if you don't want to be over the top, keep it to one.

While thats sautéing, chop up some cabbage, now how much you like and how you like it cut is entirely up to you, I've made it chopped pretty fine and also as shown in the picture above cut much larger.  I do like a good bit in there, I used about half of a small head of cabbage, however if I got one of the heads of cabbage I get from my in-laws, it would be probably no more than a quarter if not less.  I have to say they have sent down some of the biggest heads of cabbages I have ever seen.

One the cabbage has started to cook a bit, I toss in some julienned carrots, I wait on them a bit because I prefer them to be less than completely cooked where as I like the cabbage to be cooked through much more.  I also cut the onions and place them in there now to cook.  I dice up the green portions as well, but save those as garnish for serving.

By now you have probably cooked your noodles, so let's strain them and rinse them well with some cold water, this prevents them from continuing to cook and keeps them from sticking together.

As your veggies continue to cook you start making your sauce.  Even for a large batch of noodles, which is probably almost a pound, it doesn't take as much as you might think.  I use about a tbsp of fish sauce, a couple tsp of oyster sauce, maybe 1/2 tsp of sugar and probably about 1-2 tsp of soy sauce.  Again I say this is all to taste, so play around a bit and find what you like, it's not rocket science, its cooking.  You can always add a little more while you toss the noodles.  Because of this I really try to go light on the soy sauce, and add a little more while it's cooking.  Mix this all up and here's where your hard work is about to pay off.

Make a bit of a well with your veggies and toss in the sauce, followed by the noodles, tossing everything together well, trying to coat everything with a bit of sauce.  Next add your eggs back into pan continuing to toss everything together.  Now add a little salt and pepper to taste and a little more soy sauce if you so desire as well.

Once everything is mixed together,  you can add the green portion of your onions to make it look like something you got from your local take-out.  you should end up with pan full of something like this:

Now you can scoop onto your plate and serve, although if you really want an unbiased opinion of your new creation, get yourself some of those little containers, and tell everyone you tried out a new Chinese take-out and see what they think.

Good luck in the kitchen and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

KitchenAid Pasta Roller and Cutters

Lately it's been more recipes than gadgets.  Today I get to talk about a brand new gadget that I got.  Yes I am worse than a kid with a credit card in a candy store when it comes to gadgets, admittedly that's kitchen gadgets and just about any other kind of gadget as well.  Ask my wife she will tell you how bad I could be.

Every once in a while I have to say I am more than shocked at what something can do, and this is one of those moments.  Yesterday I received a package, this one I have been pondering over for well over a month.  As I escalate my list of culinary creations at home, a couple months ago I decided it was time to try to make some fresh pasta.  I decided on a light wheat pasta, and found a recipe from KitchenAid that looked pretty good.  This was going to be by hand, well except for the mixing part.  This should be no problem right?  I certainly didn't know what I was getting into, and now I know why the mob was so rough, their momma's were tough gals after rolling out all that pasta by hand.   I mean it's a good workout rolling out that dough, trying to get it thin enough, especially if you have minimal countertop space to work on.  Then to cut it I used a pizza cutter with a cookie sheet as a guide, my noodle sizes were no where near consistent, but it worked.   The end results were very good, albeit I gave up and the noodles were a little thicker than I would have liked.

It was then I decided if I was going to make pasta it was time for a new gadget.  Now here was decision time, my immediate first instinct was the KitchenAid attachment for my mixer, it's what I have seen the most and I've had great luck with my mixer as well.  However the pasta maker attachment sets are not cheap by any means, MSRP being $249 for the basic set of roller, and 2 cutters, then they also have the Pasta press for $189.   Both options seemed a bit pricy for something I wasn't sure how often I would use, I mean how much easier was this going to be than hand rolling?  Was it really going to be something that I would use often? Would my days of boxes of dried pasta be over?  These were serious questions to which i had no answers at all.

Starting to look at the KitchenAid attachments I had to do some thinking, one was a roller and was an extruder.  Personally I like fettuccine and linguini better than spaghetti, but is there a real difference, I mean pasta is pasta right?  Well doing some research online I came across people saying that the biggest difference in pasta is whether it's rolled or extruded.  Being pushed through those tiny holes to make the pasta causes it to be kind of dense and heavy, whereas rolled pasta is supposed to be lighter and more porous causing it to hold sauce better.  While pondering this thought, it made a lot of sense, and I'd say I have to agree with it, which is why I probably tend to like the flatter noodles, more surface area to hold onto that delicious sauce, whether it be marinara or alfredo.  At this point the KitchenAid press was nixed, while the idea of making my own macaroni was nice, I'd much rather make my own fettuccine, which would definitely lead to more use, and not something else to pack in the pantry.  A roller was definitely the way to go, but that doesn't mean to say I narrowed down the decision any more.

So I got to thinking, and yes this is a very dangerous moment when I do.  A manual pasta maker, they aren't too expensive, maybe I could  get one of them and test the waters.  I began doing a lot of strolling along the web reading up on these classic devices.  What did I find? Many articles saying don't waste your money on a cheap manual rollers, statements like the handle wouldn't stay in, to not staying clamped down, to metal coming off into your pasta.  From that point the reviews pointed to 2 main contenders, Marcato Atlas, and Imperia Pasta Machines, both of which run right around $69.  I had a hard time swallowing that price for a manual pasta machine.  Manual pasta makers just seem like they are either made for two people or someone with three hands, and since I'm neither, the KitchenAid roller won out, and I couldn't be more pleased with that decision.

For my first attempt I stayed simple, standard egg pasta straight from the recipe book that came with it.  With this attachment it couldn't be easier.  I will post the recipe and some pictures the next time I get it out, which I plan on being real soon.

Making the dough in the mixer is a breeze, then let it rest covered for about 20-30 minutes, then you can actually knead it by running it through the roller on it's highest setting quite a few times, just folding it over and re-running it through, this works twofold, one by kneading the pasta, and two by helping you to create a more uniform sheet before you start thinning it out.

KitchenAid is changing their package right now, so the package will contain the roller, fettuccine cutter, and a linguini cutter, however if you look right now you can save a good bit and get their original package on clearance.  The only difference is instead of a linguini cutter you get a spaghetti cutter, this was the package I was able to get, for only $139.  The cutters on the spaghetti cutters are rounded so you get the rounded spaghetti shape, but if you are so inclined, you can still use it to make a thin linguini.  So the difference in my mind is minor.  In fact when I placed the order I wasn't entirely sure which one I would get, and I'm still not sure I care enough to spend an extra $70-$80 for the different cutter. I think the next time I make pasta I'm going to try a thin linguini and see what I think, I can't imagine I will be be disappointed.

This attachment has now lead me to stock up on all purpose flour and I'm sure will lead to the purchase of some semolina flour to experiment with as well.   I see a good bit of pasta in my future, but very little if any from those little boxes in the grocery store, thanks primarily to my KitchenAid pasta rollers.  If you want to make fresh pasta and have a KitchenAid mixer, this in my mind is almost a must have.  I can't even imagine hand rolling pasta now.

Best of luck in the kitchen....Ciao!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls similar to Cinnabon

Copycat recipes are out there all over the internet for just about anything, sometimes they are good sometimes they aren't even close.  The one thing you can't always find or confirm are the brands they use to get that exact taste.  When I made this version of the Cinnabon copycat, I used a couple generic branded items, and I would say that if I used a couple alternative brands, my results would have been practically indistinguishable from Cinnabon, or at least taste so good as to be a wonderful alternative.  Even the generics I used resulted in delicious rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls (Cinnabon Copycat Recipe)

Let's start with the ingredients:

1 Cup warm Milk
2 Eggs at room temp
1/3 cup melted butter
4 1/2 cup flour (I used bread flour)
1 tsp salt (as normal for me I use Kosher salt)
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active yeast

1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
another 1/4 cup butter to spread on the dough

Cream cheese icing:
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar

Let's begin to make these wonderfully rich treats.

Warm up the milk, you can microwave it for about 45-50 seconds, you want it warm but not hot.  I used my Kitchenaid bowl and dissolved the yeast in the milk, then added the eggs, butter, salt, sugar, and flour.  Using the dough hook, I started it slow until it was mixed then raised the speed a bit until it combined everything and pulled most of the dough off the bowl and gathered on the hook.

Once your dough is completed, take another bowl and either spread some oil or nonstick spray over the entire bowl.  Now roll the dough to cover the entire ball of dough in the oil or nonstick spray.  Next cover the bowl and let sit for in a warm area till it's about doubled in size.  Should take about an hour or two.

As you are approaching the end of your rising period, it's time to prep the cinnamon sugar mixture for the filling.  This one is easy, take the 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of melted butter, mix them together making a nice little sugary mixture.

Once your dough has doubled in size, take it out onto a well floured surface.  Roll your dough out to a fairly uniform thickness, size and thickness I think are a personal preferences, I made my dough just under a  1/4" thick or so.

Next spread the 1/4 cup of melted butter over your dough, following the butter spread your cinnamon and brown sugar mixture over the dough, then roll up the and cut your rolls and place them into a well greased pan.  Give them some space between each roll, because now you are going to cover them up and let them raise a bit more.

While your rolls are rising again, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once your oven is up to temp and you are satisfied with the rising of your rolls, I wouldn't go much more than 30-40 minutes on rising time, bake the rolls at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.  Now is also your chance to begin making the icing.

For the icing, I used my KitchenAid with the whisk attachment, creaming the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt.  Next I added the powdered sugar and slowly brought the mixer up to speed as it incorporated the powdered sugar.  Just in case you are impatient like me, take your time with this and start out very slow, or you might have a cloud of sugar all over your counter and you.   Once the powdered sugar is incorporated into the mixture, you can run it at high speed for a bit to really whip up the icing.

Once your rolls are done, I let them cool just a bit, but still very warm so the icing melts all over and into the rolls.  Enjoy fresh out or wrap them up and save for later.  A batch of these made on Friday evening could give you breakfasts for the weekend, or shorter depending on the number of sweet teeth you are satisfying.

Now I had mentioned at the beginning that I used some generics in this recipe, and I do believe certain brands would have made the taste impact on these to make them so close to an actual Cinnabon roll that you might find yourself believing you picked up a pack on your way home.  So the 2 generics that I used that I will swap next time for some name brands are the cinnamon and the cream cheese.  Cinnamon should be no surprise, go for the Cinnabon brand if you want that authentic taste.  The cream cheese I would go for Philadelphia brand, the off brand I used was fine, but it still doesn't have that same taste that Philadelphia has.

Whether you consider this a copycat recipe or just another cinnamon roll recipe, these are some very fine cinnamon rolls, hope you enjoy them as much as my family has.

Good luck in the kitchen!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Easiest bread yet

Ok, so I definitely have been derelict in my blogging duties.  Unfortunately work gets in the way with way too much, one of these days perhaps I will figure out the solution to that, thus far the only thing I have come up with is to win the lottery, but unfortunately I keep forgetting to buy a ticket.

Anyway, I've had a request from my sister to write about an easy way to bake bread, so this is for her, but should also help others, I hope anyway.  Her big problem with my the dutch oven bread was she lacked a dutch oven.  Well, she also lacks any loaf pans as well.  The one thing she does have, a pizza stone, which shouldn't surprise me, as her husband loves pizza probably more than my wife, and thats saying a lot.

Now I came across a couple references online for the worlds simplest recipe for bread to remember, and I cannot argue with it at all.  Just remember 6-3-3-13.  So what is 6-3-3-13 you might ask, here goes:

6 cups of warm water
3 tbsp of Yeast
3 tbsp of salt
13 cups of bread flour

Now before you look at that and say "How much bread are you planning on making?"  I personally have NEVER utilized this recipe in its entirety.  I cut it in half and make 2 nice loaves, but remembering 3-1.5-1.5-6.5 just isn't as easy, so I remember the larger batch size and cut it in half.  And in case you are wondering 3tsp = 1 tbsp so to halve the recipe it's 4 1/2 tsp of yeast and salt.  If you ever have issues with conversions I highly suggest WolframAlpha, it's absolutely wonderful for math issues and conversions.

First thing we do is start out with the water and salt, and mix it up, remember this water needs to be warm, but not hot, then add the salt, I stir it up to dissolve all the salt into the water.  Next we add the yeast to this WARM salt water mixture.  I want to stress it a lot that this is to be warm not hot water.  Yeast is a living thing, so you have to be nice to it, throw it into a scorching hot bath and it's not going to work for you, give it a just a warm bath, and they will wake up and be ready and willing to go.

Once you have the salt and yeast mixture, let it sit for a little bit, 5-10 minutes, give those guys a chance to wake up from their dried sleep.  Next we can add the flour.

Now let's talk a little bit about flour for a minute, if you notice I specified bread flour, thats because bread flour contains higher proteins which will create more gluten, gluten is important for bread, that stringy gluten is what holds it together while the CO2 given off by the yeast expands it, you can make bread with all purpose flour, but it will not rise near to the point of a batch with bread flour, it's well worth the extra effort to keep some bread flour on hand for your bread.  Another thing I've done with this, is mixed it up a bit, I have made batches with 3 cups of wheat flour and 3 1/2 cups of bread flour for a wonderful light wheat.  If you choose to use all wheat flour, it's more than likely going to turn out much denser and not rise near as much as if you use a mixture of the 2 flours.  But play around with it and find what you like, I think I might try a few alternatives and see what I can get to come out in the future.

I guess I should take a step back, you can most certainly do this all by hand, but I utilize my Kitchenaid with my bread hook to mix it up and knead it all in the bowl. let it go until it's practically cleaned the edge of the bowl of any residual dough and attached itself all onto the hook.  Next you see a lot of bread recipes that say oil a bowl, then be sure to get all the dough completely covered in oil then let it rise, and I can certainly understand that methodology, it keeps the dough together and let's it rise nice and not stick to the bowl when you are ready to get it out, but we are talking easy, so my method, take a plate and stick it over the mixer bowl and walk away for a couple hours to let it rise.  Just be sure it's in a relatively warm place, if it's too cold your bread isn't going to rise near as good or as fast, so be weary of drafty areas.

Once it's doubled in size, which like I said, takes about 1.5-2 hours,  you are ready for the next step.  Now I don't have a lot of counter space and cleaning up a well floured surface is just an absolute pain to me, so what I do is take my cutting board and flip it over to a nice smooth side and throw some flour on it.  Flour your surface well, and get plenty of flour on your hands as well.  Take your dough from the bowl onto your floured work area, it's going to be sticky and soft, but be gentle with it, we don't want to overly deflate it, we aren't kneading it again, just preparing to bake.

So now you have a lump of dough on the counter, divide it into 2 (as evenly as you can get it) portions.    Now cover them with flour and try to nice and easily form them into pretty little round flour covered upside down bowls. I always fold it over so the bottom is where it all comes together since you won't really see that.  Once you have your lovely little bowls of dough, cover them up, as it's time to let them rise just a bit more.

At this point you can heat your oven up with your Pizza stone in it to 400 degrees.  The time it takes to it to warm up is usually good amount of time to let your dough rise again, thats my usual guestimating timer, and it really hasn't failed me yet, but you could have some super heated oven that only takes 2 minutes to get up to temp, ok ok ok, wait about 10-15 minutes, sheesh.  This should allow your bread to raise a bit more and the pizza stone to heat up.

Now comes the tricky part.  Open your oven up, and pull out the rack a bit (it's easier with 2 people so you don't cool down your oven too much with the time it takes to get the dough in there and close the door, but eventually you get pretty quick on your own too), once you have easy access to your stone, GENTLY pick up your dough trying not to screw up your shaping job or deflating it, and drop it on your stone.  No it's not going to be perfectly round or beautifully shaped at this point, but this is homemade bread, you are going for taste, and that little bit of difference of shape assures everyone that you made this from scratch!

Now once you have it on your stone close it up in the oven and bake it at 400 for about 30 minutes.   This is the best time if you haven't already to go back and at least rinse off your mixing bowl, because if you let that dough dry on there, it's going to take some major soaking and scrubbing to get it off, believe me I know from experience.

After you have enjoyed those 30 minutes of bakery quality smells wafting through your household, it's time to remove it from the oven. Take a couple of clean towels or clean oven mitts and just grab the bread from the stone, don't worry about being too careful with, it's going to have a nice crispy crust and be pretty firm.  Now let it cool on a wire rack, and whenever you are ready you have a delicious bread for whatever your heart desires, and on a side note, if you have some pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese,  and some pepperoni  if you like, it can make wonderful little pizzas.

Don't forget to repeat the cooking for your second loaf, it's still sitting on your counter ready, and probably a little bit larger than your first loaf since you let it rise while you baked your first.  Thats just a bonus!

Now I like a firmer crust on my homemade bread, but some people I know don't, and this trick works with bread from a bread maker as well.  If you want a softer bread, after it's cooled down to almost room temp place it into a bag, this lets the moisture soften up the crust.  Personally we usually let it cool overnight before placing it into any type of container be it a bag or a large tupperware, whatever is handy at the time.

There you have it, my easiest method for bread, hope you enjoy it as much as we have, we have went through a lot of loaves in our household, but after buying a 50 lbs bag of bread flour at Costco, we have plenty of ingredients.  And if you look at what an artisan bread loaf costs you at the grocer's bakery or a place like Panera, you can save a fortune and still have that wonderful quality bread, and maybe once or twice a week spend a few hours to make your bread for the week.   You really won't be disappointed!

Best of luck in the Kitchen!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Easy Dutch Baby Pancakes

Ok, I have been lapsing on my blogging responsibility, but tonight I made something that I feel the need to share.  Tonight I made a Dutch Baby pancake, and yes I meant tonight, my wife and I both agree that breakfast foods are too good to be only for the mornings.

This was my finished Dutch Baby pancake, topped off with some blueberries and powdered sugar.  I had seen these beautifully delicious items at the Original Pancake House just about every time I have went, but I never could get myself to try one.  But then I decided it was time to make one, and I'm not sure yet whether it's good or not, because it was not difficult, but the results were wonderful, so it could be one of those dishes that finds its way into our household more often that it should.

Now I can't take all the credit for the recipe and I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  I found the recipe at German Pancake Recipe.  For ease I will give my abbreviated version here.

If you've ever looked up recipes for dutch babies, you will notice one thing that most of them mention, they all talk about cooking in either a cast iron pan, or some other pan that is capable of taking the heat from the oven.  Well I took a totally different route, and just used a small 9" round cake pan, and it worked perfectly.

Let's start with our shopping list:

  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup of Bread Flour
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Enough butter to cover your pan.
To start with, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  While your oven is heating up, now you can start to mix up your batter.  First take your eggs and whip them up to a nice smooth consistency.  You can then add the rest of the ingredients, mixing until you have smooth creamy batter, it is quite a bit thinner than your normal pancake batter, it will take a few minutes to make sure you get it smooth and no lumps.

Now, if you are only using a cake pan, you don't need to do this for too long, but you will want to preheat your pan.  Once your pan is good and hot, and your batter is smooth, the next step is quick and easy.  Take your pan out and throw in some butter and let it coat the pan good, be sure to try to get it all over, butter is not just for flavor but also to avoid sticking.

Once your pan is good and coated with butter, pour your batter into the pan, and return it to the oven.  Try not to take too long with this, so your pan doesn't get too cool in the mean time.  Next just set your timer for 20 minutes.  Now while your dish is baking this is where it gets cool.  Be sure to look through your oven window every now and then so you can see your the sides of your creation creeping up.

After 20 minutes your dish should be complete.  and it will probably look something like this

And as you will notice it's just your standard cake pan that I used and still got excellent results.  Serve right away while it's still warm and at it's peak so it's at it's most impressive.

I think this dish is one you could serve in so many ways that your end results could vary from day to day.  Tonight I added some blueberries that I cooked up and added some sugar, simple but tasty.  But I could see any type of fruit from apples to strawberries.  Or you could do it up just like normal pancakes and some butter (or peanut butter as the case may be) and syrup.

Enjoy your new dish, and best of luck in the kitchen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Easy Cooking with the Crockpot!

This weekend I took it pretty easy and when I really want to cook easily, I usually pull out my crockpot.  There is no item in a kitchen that is more simplistic with such consistent results.  While I love to smoke meats low and slow in my smoker out back, sometimes doing that is hard to manage, since you have to babysit the fire.  So when I'm looking for that smoky flavor with no fuss, I turn to my liquid smoke.

Now don't get me wrong liquid smoke is no substitute for the real thing, but it still adds a nice flavor with ease.   This weekend it was an attempt at recreating Kalua Pig, which to this day I've never been able to do.  This time unfortunately it was still not quite there still, but much closer than any previous attempt to date.

To start with I choose a decent size Picnic roast and toss it in the crock pot, then I liberally poured Mesquite liquid smoke on both sides of it.  I used mesquite flavor because it is closer to the natural woods they use to smoke the pig in Hawaii, however for just a nice smoky pulled pork, hickory works well.  Next thing I do is sprinkle kosher salt on all sides of meat, this always adds a nice flavor, even without adding liquid smoke.  The one thing I have learned with crockpot pork though, is to be sure and set it in there with the fat side up, this allows the fats to "melt" into the meat and keeps things from drying out.  This may not be the healthiest way to cook it, but it does help it from drying out, of course if your pork does come a bit too dry, this can be easily remedied and without anyone knowing.  Instead of just having pulled pork, now you add some barbecue sauce and you have plenty of barbecue pork for sandwiches, and only you will know that it wasn't planned.

Then comes the hardest part of all!  You have to wait for 8-10 hours on low for it to cook, all this time if you are home, you have to deal with that delicious smell permeating throughout your entire household.  To me this is second only to the smell of fresh bread, which is another smell that has a tendency to be around our place.

Once the meat is cooked, I remove the fat I can from the meat as much as I can, and shred it with 2 forks.  Then you have enough meat for a large party or for meals for the next week.   When the meat comes out, my favorite way to eat it is just as it is, a mound of shredded meat on my plate, which is quite contrary to my vegetarian wife, without whom I'd probably not have any sides to speak of with my meals.

The beauty of doing this though is that you almost always will have plenty of leftovers.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy my leftover pulled pork is in quesadillas, some pork and cheese in a tortilla a side of some salsa and sour cream, and I am a happy camper!

Don't forget your crockpot for parties either, a 6 quart crockpot will cook up enough meat for even the hungriest of crews.  And while it's cooking you still have your oven for other goodies and time to spare.  With a crockpot and a little prepping ahead of time(since it does take hours to cook) you can have plenty of food for all your guests.  One of my other common practices is making shredded chicken adding some taco seasoning, and you have a great start to a taco bar for everyone, and it keeps it nice and warm while everyone serves themselves.

Best of luck in the kitchen!  Good eats and great treats for all!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Maverick ET732 BBQ Thermometer

Today I think it's time to head out of the kitchen to the back yard.  Yes even though the end of summer is fast approaching I think there is more than enough time to work on our skill on the grill!  On that note I'm going to talk about what I feel to be one of the most important additions to your grilling and smoking arsenal.   A good thermometer makes grilling easy and beyond rewarding.

My best friend while cooking on the grill is my Maverick wireless thermometer.  This little beauty has 2 temperature probes, one for the cooking chamber and one for the meat.  Let me start out by saying that little thermometer on the outside of your grill is probably little more than a cute decoration as far as the temperature of the cooking chamber, the accuracy of it if you are lucky is probably as much as 50 degrees off.  Would you think of baking something in your oven at an unknown temperature?  Then why would you in your outdoor oven?  With the Maverick you can clip the probe so that it sits just above the grates of your grill and get a good accurate temperature of the area where you are cooking your meal.  It also has another probe that you can put into your meats, so you know right when your favorite dish at the proper temp.  Then the best part, is you can walk away and keep tabs on the progress right from your pocket with the wireless monitor.   So for that low and slow smoking you will know when to add more coals, or turn up the heat from the comfort of your favorite chair.  I always joke that my secret to grilling is doing as little as possible and drinking as much beer as possible.  So being able to keep tabs on it without sitting right by the grill, or opening it up to check on it and having temperature fluctuations constantly is an absolute must.

They claim the range is about 300 feet for the wireless monitor, and I can't really tell you for sure, as I have a pretty small place and probably haven't traveled much more than 50 feet from it, but we don't really want to let our secret out, so we have to stay near the grill at all times anyway right?  At least thats what I tell my wife so she will help cook the sides and get the table ready. So let's keep the fact that we can walk away from the grill our little secret.

My favorite thing to use this for is chicken.  In the past I had a tendency to avoid cooking chicken on the grill, as I almost always ended up with something that was more dry than the Las Vegas desert.   Because we all know you have to be sure and cook your chicken thoroughly, but without a thermometer, how are you really to know when it's done and not over done?  The answer simply is you can't.

Let me start by saying I owe a lot to a man that goes by the name "Meathead" over at amazingribs.com.  He turned me on to the Maverick and is an excellent resource for grilling recipes and tips.

I don't have a huge fancy grill(maybe one day), but I do have a decent size barrel grill, a CharGriller Pro barrel grill, and for me it's got to be charcoal.  I also have the side firebox but I'll save the details of the grill for another time.  Starting out, I get my coals going in my chimney, while thats going I prep my grill.  First thing I do is add an aluminum pan filled with water on one side of my grill.  I always put that on the side with the exhaust, so if I want to add some wood chips for that smokey flavor it has to travel over the meat to leave.  I also put the BBQ probe on that side of the grill, that way it's in the same general vicinity of the meat, where the cooking will take place.

Once I have my probe and water pan in place, my coals should be getting good and hot in the chimney, at this point I can add them to the other side of the grill.  If you are using a smaller charcoal grill you can do this by adding the water in the center and splitting your coals up around each side of your water pan.

The next thing I do is clean up the grates and prep them.  Now here comes a little tip I saw on TV one time.  I used to use cooking spray to help oil the grates, but this was always a little bit of a trick, because you had to avoid turning it into a flame thrower.  The other problem that occurs is that most of it burns up before it ever even gets on the grates.  So my new technique that I absolutely love, take some oil in a cup, then fold over a paper towel a few times, then with a pair of tongs hold the paper towel dip it in the oil and then spread it over the grates.  Works like a charm and will help with things sticking to your grates.

I guess I kind of glazed over a step, and thats the prep of your chicken.  I've tried a couple different ways, and you can go from simple to whatever you like, whether it's just some salt, or a fantastic rub.  For this I'm going to try for a bit healthy and something I was quite impressed with.  Mrs. Dash has a poultry seasoning mix, that I've used a few times.  It's no salt so if you are on a low sodium diet it's a great alternative, and it turned out a quite tasty dish.  So all I did was cover the chicken in some of Mrs. Dash poultry seasoning, and I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts too, so the end results were actually quite healthy.

Once your grill and chicken are ready, simply place the meat probe into the thickest portion of the meat, if you are cooking something with bones, be sure not to touch the bone with the probe as this won't give you accurate results as to when your chicken is done.  Now place your meat on your grill over the water tray, and close your lid.   Now for the hard part!!!!  Take your wireless monitor with you, grab a beer, and sit down!   When your chicken gets to about 165 as is the minimum temp your are supposed to cook it to, then you can go get it, put it on a plate and serve.  Because you monitored the temperature and took it off before it was over done, it will be some of the most moist chicken you will ever have.  And because you had a wireless monitor to oversee this, you've probably had the easiest time grilling you ever had.

This is one of those items that I think is a must, now the price tag is a bit high for a grilling accessory I admit, but I tried a cheaper thermometer and it lacked a probe for the cooking chamber, and it didn't last  either.  However I will give you this bit of advice too, this isn't just for grilling.  Want to have the juiciest Thanksgiving day turkey too?  Just use the meat probe while you are cooking your turkey in the oven, no need to check on it constantly either, and rely on the little pop up piece of plastic that lets you know when your turkey is dry enough for you!

Hope your grilling is a success!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dutch oven Bread returns

I thought that I would post some pics of the Dutch Oven Bread recipe that I discussed last week.

This first pic is the dough after it's risen, now this time I tried for a much shorter time, I only had the dough rising for about 9-10 hours, I think the difference was very little compared with my much longer  wait time of my first try.  The end results is just what you see a bowl for of sticky dough, easily over twice the size of the original amount.

Dough after rising.

Now you take out the dough onto a well floured surface, for this I always use the underside of my cutting board, so that I can clean it up much easier.  All you do is create your floured ball to prepare to drop into your dutch oven. A trick to getting the dough out of the bowl is to be sure to get plenty of flour on your hands , that way the only thing the dough is sticking to is your bowl, not your hands!

Prepped dough.

This next pic is the final product come fresh out of the oven in my little Grand Gourmet Dutch Oven.  Oh the smell was heavenly, but then again, I can't think of anything greater than baked goods to fill the house with a wonderful scent.  Now I did notice this second attempt did not yield quite as brown of a result as my first.  I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I don't think I let my Dutch oven get quite warm enough during preheating, although it was warm enough to get tasty results, it's presentation wasn't quite the same.

Fresh from the oven.

And the finale, the end result.  Now this also shows a little trick I came across as well, my racks are somewhere packed away, so in a pinch, I flipped over a cupcake pan and rested my bread on it to cool.

Finished Product

And now you have an easy way to get bakery style bread at home with very little effort, just be sure to have a good bread knife handy, and if you are anything like our household, plenty of peanut butter!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Showtime Compact Rotisserie

I think I will put up a review of an old item I've had for quite a while.  Just so you know I haven't left you hanging.

I'd be dismissed as a kitchen gadget guy if I didn't include an As Seen on TV product, and who else can you start with but Ron Popeil, creater of Ronco.  No doubt if you've been up late at night, you've seen this man and you've seen one of his products, but in my mind his catch phrase(besides "..and that's not all.") "Set it and Forget it", is one that I'm betting everyone has heard at least once, if not a multitude of times.  The device that made this saying famous, his Showtime Rotisserie.  While I did not purchase the full size rotisserie, i did get the Showtime Compact Rotisserie, being single at the time, having a small kitchen, and not wanting to lay down the extra money that went with having the larger one, the small rotisserie fit the bill pretty nicely, especially since I was very skeptical as I am with most infomercial products.  The other reason was that it was available at a store, which with some of the horror stories I've heard with customer service from informercial sites, and their usually outrageous shipping, purchasing it at the store made me feel much more comfortable.

Let me start now with my own personal disclaimer and one they echo in their instructions, no kitchen gadget or cooking item is, nor should it be set and forgotten.  I will admit that, this is close in that regards.  I have been more than pleased with this purchase, while I won't claim it's of the highest quality, for a sub $100 item, it has held up quite well over the years for me.  I have made chicken, pork, fish all with some excellent results.  My biggest complaint is the ease at which it is to clean, after a while it definitely started to look used, and the non stick spit rods and basket, are turning into near non stick.  Now in all fairness this was after about a year of decent use, not something i dragged out every day, but every couple of weeks I'd make something in it.

I learned relatively quickly though I didn't care for using the basket to cook things in, if you filled it up, the edges would cook more than the center(kind of expected but when you want to cook a bunch of wings or legs of chicken, not something you want to deal with)  But by far the biggest complaint I had with the basket is it's use in the real world.  Sure in the infomercial they show it used with fish fillets, pork chops, and chicken breasts, but the one thing you have to take into consideration is size, if all your cuts are not exactly the same thickness, you will get movement within the basket while it rotates, and I don't know about any of you, but I do not have the time nor want, to be sure that all my food is the same thickness.  So if you are looking at this item for the cooking basket, I'd rethink that, while it works as advertised, it's just not as convenient as you might think.  Add the issues with getting the food in there, the really hard part doesn't come till after you get it out. Who wants to drag out a cutting board to pull out this hot basket to pull out hamburgers or chicken wings, extra clean up that in my mind isn't worth the effort.   Like I said, it cooks fine and does a good job with it, but the effort with which to use the basket, isn't worth it.

Now the real reason you might have bought this item.  Let's throw a pork roast, or a whole chicken on the spits.  Here is truely where this machine shines.  Simple and delicious pork, I took a pork roast, rubbed in some kosher salt, and some liquid smoke, put it on the spit rods and tossed it in there.  In about an hour or so (depending on the size of your roast) I took out a wonderfully delicious and moist roast, that for me, I simply cut into patties and served on buns, but can be sliced and served in a more elegant manor just as easily.  All depends on how you want to enjoy it. Chicken as well comes out every bit as good as what you get in your local grocery store deli.

My only real complaint was it's noise, while it's not the noisiest kid on the block when it comes to small appliances, when you have to listen to the whirring of the motor and the slight tick of the timer for over an hour, it can get old.  I guess I do have one other complaint, is the size, it's not something you can easily fit in any cabinet in your kitchen, and if you are low on space in your pantry to hide it away, forget it.  While not as big as the full size rotisserie, it's still a large item and demands space, both when stored and while in use, remember this thing is putting off some good heat, you don't want it browning your cabinets that are only inches above it do you?

All in all, it's a nice little rotisserie, and I truely think I've gotten my money's worth out of it.  Though now as the glass has gotten a little glazed with use, can't say that I want it sitting out constantly, although it's nice to be able to see your contents, with it's relatively small space I think they could have used tinted glass so that burnt on grease didn't stain it quite so bad (and you can more easily hide all the attachments while not in use).

In closing, I think if you have the space to store it, and love that rotisserie taste, it's hard to go wrong with this item for something in this price range.  Don't get me wrong, I really can't tell you how long it will last, as it doesn't seem to be sturdiest, but it has held up for me pretty good.  However for this price, you can't hardly expect it to last a lifetime, at least I wouldn't.

Good luck in the kitchen!!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Enamel Covered Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

Last night I managed to use my dutch oven for something I never would have thought about.   When it comes to kitchen gadgets though, the more uses, the better, if I can use something for more than what someone would consider it's typical use, it's more likely it will gain a place of honor closer to the counter top so that I can use it more.

In this case I have a Grand Gourmet Enamel Covered Cast Iron Dutch Oven.  Now I'm sure there are those of you out there that might think that Le Creuset is the greatest, or some that might even scream for Lodge Logic, but I was buying this with really only an occasional use in mind so I went with the cheap brand I found on sale at my local Meijer.  I really only had 1 recipe that I thought I'd use it for, and thats making pork carnitas, and I've done that it did turn out good, but this is about using it for something new (well new to me even).

I like many of you out there probably browse Pinterest, although I'm not one that actually "pins" anything, heck I don't even have an account.  But I do browse it for recipes and DIY stuff (I play in the kitchen, and with woodworking, oh how I'd love more hours in the day).  Every once in a while I come across things that intrigue me, this time it was a simple recipe for "Crusty Bread".

Now while I am a self admitted carnivore, I do love some good bread to go with my meat.  I mean bread was created for the need to be able to eat meat on the go, thus creating the sandwich right?  Anyway,  the best bread is that which is freshly baked no question about it, the next best thing is the artisan loaves you get from local bakeries or places like Panera.   If you like me, any bread you've made in the past has been good, but it hasn't had that crisp textured crust like what you find at those places.  Well the aforementioned recipe allows you to create just that, and couldn't be any simpler.

3 Cups of Flour (I used bread flour just because, but the original poster just used all purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups of water.

Whisk up your dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the water, it looked a bit dry when I was done mixing, but thats not a problem at all.  Now you cover it and let it rise, her recipe called for 12-18 hours, mine was over 20 hours because like others, work always interferes with my fun in the kitchen.  You could probably even get away with a bit less, because I didn't notice a much rising from checking on it in the morning to the 10 hours later when I was able to finally get to cooking it.

Once you have made it through the painstakingly long aspect of letting it rise, now it's time to prep.  Heat your oven to 450 degrees, once heated put your dutch oven in there to heat up as well.  Originally she had said to preheat your dutch oven for 30 minutes, my impatience lead me to think it was probably preheated enough in 15 minutes.

While your oven is preheating, take your dough out onto a well floured surface and shape it into a ball, it's going to be a bit sticky so be sure to get some flour on your hands to work with it.

You will undoubtedly be done with your shaping before everything gets preheated so you might want to cover your dough for the remainder of time.

Once your dutch oven is preheated take it out, remember it's going to be HOT, after all you've just had it preheating in a 450 degree oven!  Now comes the easiest part, drop your ball of dough in the dutch oven and put the cover on and place it back in the oven.  Cook it covered for 30 minutes, then take the cover off and cook it for another 15 minutes.

Then you can take it out and let it cool on a rack.  Enjoy at your convenience!

I'm sure some of you might be thinking I skipped a step of putting butter or oil in the dutch oven, nope, didn't skip a step at all, because I didn't do it.  I contend the biggest problem with food sticking to most cookware is because very few of us preheat it, don't get me wrong, I'm sure it could stick if you're dealing with a worn out piece of cookware, but you severely lesson sticking in most your cooking by preheating, I usually can cut my oil or butter I use my cooking in half if I only wait to cook on it, of course I'm not the most patient person so yes usually I just be sure to spray, spritz, or throw pats of butter in there while cooking.   This bread required none of that, even in my cheap little dutch oven didn't stick a bit, I turned it over and out it popped.

The other thing the original poster talked about doing is mixing it up, of which I'm sure I will do, adding your favorite cheeses, dried fruits, seasoning, or whatever floats your boat to make something new.   I've already been thinking about a cinnamon and sugar loaf that should make excellent toast, or how about  some freshly grated parmesan with some italian seasoning, combine it with a small dish of olive oil and freshly cracked pepper to dip it in....and you have yourself an appetizer that won't last long.  Ok now I want to make another batch to try that, might be a weekend project.

And the next best thing, is this makes beautiful little loaves, that have all the look and charm of bakery store bread.  Wrap it up and you have excellent little gifts for friends and family, especially if you have added something a little different that has just made it out of this world!

I want to thank the Simply So Good blog for posting the recipe, it's nice to get bakery results from such a simple recipe, and I loved being able to have another use for one of my gadgets, I'm sure my dutch oven is going to get a lot more use making breads too now.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Kitchen Aid Ice Cream maker attachment

Now the one item you tend to see most kitchen cooks love to have and use is a Kitchen Aid mixer, and for good reason, they last a long time and do a wonderful job.  If you are a gadgeteer like myself they also appear great for all their add on accessories.  Even though I do love trying out new gadgets, I do try to be conscience of size and usefulness, as I don't want a lot of clutter on my counter nor am I one to pull out a gadget just to use it.  I admit that I have quite a few gadgets hiding away in the pantry that haven't seen the light of day in quite a while.  Sometimes though you find a recipe or get an idea to make something that just requires that special gadget that you haven't used in a while.  Well I did that this past weekend with pretty excellent results.  The item in question this week, the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment...the challenge....a copy cat recipe for Wendy's Frosty....and the outcome...well, let's just say I was amazingly surprised.

I will start out saying that this is an attachment that I probably never would have bought, my only reason for having it is that when I bought my kitchen aid mixer, there was a deal that I got it for free with it.  Who am I to pass up on a free kitchen gadget.

Now I can't take credit for the recipe, as this is not something that I would probably even remotely came up with, and whether they came up with it or not, this is where I got it from this Easy chocolate Ice Cream recipe.   Although I was far from being able to add a full half gallon of milk to my Kitchen Aid attachment, it came it very good, although I did have to put it in the freezer to finish the process.

The Kitchen Aid ice cream maker is simply a mixing bowl that you freeze ahead of time (it says about 15 hours, I left it in a few days because I didn't get to trying this right away), and a special mixing attachment that is just like what you find in a standard ice cream mixer.  So I proceeded to take my ingredients out and put them in the mixing bowl.  My impatience got the better of me on this, because I assumed just to throw it all in there and mix it while it made it, of course that is because I was doing this from memory first and went back and later checked the recipe....oops.  This lapse caused me to take the mixing paddle out and mix it up better in the frozen bowl.

According to most of the recipes that come with the Kitchen Aid they talk about 10-15 minutes for the ice cream to start to get near consistency, so at a half hour and it was just somewhat near consistency I was a bit disheartened.  However half of it was about the right consistency, so to finish it off I put it into a container and tossed it into the freezer.  The results later that night was frosty heaven.  Amazingly it was so similar I was shocked.  In hind site I think my results would have been better if I mixed up the ice cream batter, and put it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to get it near freezer ready.

As this is only about half about my ice cream recipe let me give some more info about the gadget that helped make this wonderful concoction.  This ice cream maker is not too bad for those of us that would barely ever make our own ice cream.  Although I admit my first attempt failed pretty miserably, my own fault I put the batter in much too warm.  I think that for this to work best you probably should put your batter in after chilling it to the point where the start to get the first bit of ice crystals.  Since you can't add more ice and make it chill longer, you need to plan ahead, and have it near freezing before you start the mixing, if you put them in even slightly warm, you can forget about ice cream, but you might have a nice shake.

The only other downside to this device is the size, with it's size custom recipes you find online or from a friend or where ever, will more than likely have to be adapted to fit into the bowl, as it's only capable of preparing around 2 quarts of ice cream, hence why I wasn't able to fit a half gallon of chocolate milk into my frosty mix, and even the amount I added, I ended up coming up over the edge a bit.

Where I think this little thing really excels at is cooking with kids, my 2 year old son was with me in the kitchen while I was trying this out and being able to see the ice cream mixing and start to thicken made him really feel apart of it.  Almost too much to be honest, because when my wife got home that evening and we were telling her what we were going to have later, he told her he made the ice cream!  Letting him have the credit though was worth it to see his face, although him knowing there was a lot more than the small cup we gave him wasn't all that great, because he definitely wanted more.

In review, I have a hard time really grading this item, for the normal price of $80 I'm not sure I could recommend it.  Although some of the benefits of not having to deal with a mess of ice and rock salt is nice, especially when dealing with kids, and being able to see it as your treat starts the transformation to a frozen icy treat is also a plus.  But when you can get an old school ice cream maker or a dedicated small one like the Cuisinart one for less, it makes this one a bit hard to swallow for the money.  The only benefit to this one versus one like this Cuisinart Ice Cream maker is that when you are freezing this bowl you are still only storing your Kitchen Aid, not another full size gadget.  So would I buy this outright at full price, probably not, if you caught it on sale or as a bonus when you buy your Kitchen Aid, it's not bad.  Especially if you are only going to be making ice cream once or twice a year, but if you plan on making ice cream a lot, or in much greater quantities, I'd keep looking.

If you have tried something in the Kitchen Aid Ice cream maker or have your favorite recipe I'd love to hear it and hopefully try it out.  Best of luck in your kitchen!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Original Green Pan

Ok, it's been entirely too long that I have updated anything, so I figured it had best be time to add a little something.

Over the course of the last year there has been a lot of buzz about the health and safety of teflon coated pans.  Now while I am a bit of a skeptic on their overall safety, as I have had one that after being left on a burner for too long the coating did start to peal off and basically it ruined my pan.  I attributed it to being a cheaper pan and my own forgetfulness of leaving it on the stove.  However I did start to think about how much of this might be coming off in everyday cooking.  Considering that was over 15 years ago, and I have sense increased my cooking knowledge 100 times what it was then, primarily my habit of cooking things at way too high of a temp, and I have continued to use teflon pans, it obviously didn't bother me that much.  All this buzz and even my experiences have made infomercials like the "Orgreenic" pan seem a bit intriguing.  As I have stated in the past though, I'm not a big fan of ordering those products from the infomercials due to extreme shipping costs and many reviews of utterly horrid experiences, but find it in the store and I might give it a try.

I had looked at that Orgreenic pan several times at my local Target store, and while I was intrigued I'm also frugal, and several reviewers online about it gave it bad ratings, saying it just didn't last, and while $20 isn't much for a pan, I'd like to at least get a year, and many were saying it didn't last more than a month or so.  Enter my habit of going to the kitchen section of the local outlet stores like Marshall's or TJ Maxx.  While there, I found a Ceramic pan called "The Original Green Pan", and it was only $10.  How could I possibly pass that up.

First and foremost let me start on it's design, it's a relatively simple pan, but unlike many it does not have the rivets for the handle on the inside, so first thought for me, no more egg getting stuck there.  The ceramic coating for the pan sure felt non stick, and it's color is a bit of a neutral gray, so right off the bat it appealed to me much more than the bright green of the Orgreenic.

The real test of the pan though was yet to be experienced.  Of course with a small 8" pan, the one thing I also cook in it and the one thing I really bought it for was for eggs.  So it was time to scramble up some eggs and have breakfast.  While I try to eat as healthy as I can, I don't skimp on flavor either, "Give me butter, or give me death!".  So of course I add a bit of butter, it's something I've always cooked eggs with and something I always will, nonstick or not!  Now there is something I'm guilty of when it comes to cooking on the stove, and many of you I sure are as well, and thats not letting something get up to temp first before throwing it on there. Well eggs I'm doubly so, because I also don't like to dirty up unnecessary dishes, I'm not as lucky as those chefs on TV who don't have to do dishes, although I do have to give a ton of credit to my wife as she does more of the dishes than I do, but I try not to add as many as I could.  So I crack my eggs into the pan a bit cooler and scramble em right in the pan, using a rubber or plastic spatula, I'm not going to tempt fate when it comes to anything nonstick.

The end result of my new ceramic pan.....I love it!!!  It has held up well, although I am probably a bit more careful with it than some of my others, hand washing, never cooking above medium, and always add some sort of oil to it for just about anything.  So far nothing has stuck to it any more or less than any other teflon pan I've ever owned, be it Circulon, T-Fal, or even my Emerilware.  Add in the fact that it doesn't have the rivets and it has officially become my egg pan of choice.

I didn't stop there though, I did try something else, and this was much more of a testament to it's nonstick capabilities than the eggs.  Frozen turkey sausage was probably my best test to it.  I took it directly form the freezer and tossed it into the pan.  Now on my stainless steal pans, this was a disaster.  Since turkey sausage has much less fat than ordinary pork sausage, there was little to no grease to help with the sticking.  The original Green Pan come through like a champ, the only thing that was on the pan during the cooking was the initial bit of char from the initial toss in, outside of that it didn't stick at all.  And that little bit that was left, wiped out with a paper towel.

Now the big thing you might be wondering is, is this product worth it?  That is till up in the air, because I want a pan to last a couple years or more, and I've only had it a few months.  At $10, it's been worth every penny, and I've contemplated getting one of their larger pans, but I'm still a bit skeptical about paying $40 for it.  If this one continues to please me for the next few months I might invest but for now, if you can find one on sale for cheap, I'd say go for it, as far as the Orgreenic, that I don't know, just by feel alone, it certainly doesn't feel like it's made as well as the Original Green Pan, but if any of you have any experience with it, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks and Good Luck in the Kitchen!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Infrared Halogen Oven

Ok I admit it, I am guilting of sitting at night or Sunday afternoon watching infomercials.  Heck you already know I have a Magic Bullet.  I have watched many and some have definitely caught my eye, but I am very cautious with them, besides whether or not the product can do what it says, there is also the poor customer service, the outrageous shipping fees, and sometimes very poor quality.   Of course now we have other options, since quite a few of these "As Seen on TV" products are at our local stores, so we can avoid the additions, shipping charges, and other hidden fees.  Sometimes though there are other alternatives out there too.

The one that intrigued me for quite a while was the NuWave Oven and Flavorwave Oven.  Their claims of frozen to the dinner table intrigued the heck out of me.  Could it really do it, does it save you time and money?  Would I spend over a hundred dollars to find out?  The answer to all was found in the last question...OH HECK NO!!!!  Over a $100 for a gadget that may or may not live up to it's claims?  Not for me!  But while shopping at my local Menards, I found a small Infrared Halogen Oven from Bellini, that looked very much like the Flavorwave oven, albeit a bit smaller, and it was on sale for $30, now that is a price to test out a new gadget!

First let me say I liked the concept of the Flavorwave oven over the NuWave, because you cooked in a bowl, so clean up seemed like it would be quite a bit easier, and it was a solid glass bowl, not some plastic dome.  So to see a smaller version for that price I had to try it.

Let me tell you first and foremost, I was pleasantly pleased with the results!  Although taking something from frozen to cooked was no faster than cooking it thawed and sometimes it did take a bit longer, the fact you can save time not thawing something out was rather nice.  Decide on chicken when you get home from work, take it out of the freezer, toss some seasoning on it and throw it in there, and in 30-40 minutes (depending on the thickness of your chicken it could be longer)  and you are ready to eat.  I even have tried the little trick of putting my fish/chicken on the lower level and some tator tots on the top to have a full meal.  It worked as well as the oven did.

I only have a few gripes really and at least with this device the directions didn't tell you some of the real tricks to using it. 
Trick 1:  Frozen meats should be relatively uniform in their thickness, a chicken breast is going to have a fairly dry end by the time that thick section is done, but strips, loins, and nuggest come out very well. 
Trick 2:  Preheat the device.  while it doesn't say to, and there is no easy way to do so since it's operation is pretty much solely based on the timer, preheating it some does have an impact on the performance.

Now for the bad news, and remember that mine was smaller than the NuWave and the Flavorwave.  Cleaning it while not bad, is a bit of a hassle, racks to me are always a pain, and the glass bowl that makes up the cooking chamber is still big and heavy, so to wash and dry it, it takes up a good bit of space all on its own.  The other thing too is that mine is smaller, for a family it doesn't really cut it, but I can honestly say I wouldn't want the larger versions like the NuWave or Flavorwave because they would take up some serious countertop space.

My take on it:  Single or couple could make for some nice meals, family size it and you might as well use the oven. 

Bellini Infrared Halogen Oven
        Smaller than Flavorwave and Nuwave
        Way cheaper than it's "As Seen on TV" counter parts
        Cooks frozen to Ready without drying out
        A lot to clean up
        Heavy bowl
        Hard to store because of it's shape.

Let me know what you think if you've tried any of the items mentioned in this post!

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Addition Old Gadget

Well I have been away far too long, so now is the time to update.  Lately I have been very busy due to a new addition to my family, I now have a  lovely baby girl.   With this in mind I thought this would be a great time to mention an old gadget of mine that has a new model out that is geared more towards the parents out there.  I am talking about the Magic Bullet, you all have heard the slogan, "Your personal, versatile, countertop magician!".  Now out you might have seen the Baby Bullet, geared towards making your own baby food for that bundle of joy.

Let me first say I have NOT used the Baby Bullet, nor do I think I will, since I already have the Magic Bullet, it would seem silly to me just to get it because it is marketed towards making baby food. So now on to the review.

I recieved the Magic Bullet as a gift ages ago, back in my bachelor days.  Yes I had asked for it, thought it would be great for a single guy, much easier to use and clean than a full size blender and plenty of capacity for myself.  It sure looks like it and they tell you that on the infomercial.  But I'm not so sure about those claims. 

My set included the Magic Bullet, the chopping blade, the whipping blade, small and large containers and 4 mugs with their little covers for the threads.  Of course later they had the larger set that included a larger mixer bowl and a juicer attachment, but sometimes it's heck being an early adopter and only getting the basics, my set lacked what could have made this a much more enticing item.

I started off with smoothies of course, I mean thats probably what it seems most blenders are used for anyway.  It did a splendid job with this task, although I learned very quickly it's better to over mix your items than to have to put that blade back on after you take it off.  Right away I started with smoothie dripping over the edge as I tried unsuccessfully to screw the blade back on with smoothie already covering it.  This seemed right away a design oversight on their part.  You have to guage your consitancy on looks alone if you don't want a bit of a mess, or you are rinsing the blade bases every time you check.  Admittedly I overlooked this flaw as I didn't really think you'd be checking too often when blending things.  I'm sure some of you are saying, just look at the flow of it to see it's consistency, nice idea, but you put in your ingredients on the bottom, which becomes the top when put on the power base, and trying to see the consistency through smoothy or any other item, not so easy.

Overall, despite some general frustration at this point I was happy with my new gadget.  Now it's time to start trying some recipes.  I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and I absolutely love cheesecake, so I had to try their included recipe of cheesecake, it seemed so simple.  And it wasn't too bad,  although to get it to completely mix, required a few times opening it up (or the more forceful method of a few good taps on the counter).   Anyway I managed to make a smooth concoction and then toss into a grahm cracker pie crust, bake and eat.  My only complaint, this wasn't REAL cheesecake, it was a thin representation of cheesecake.  I really wanted a full size cheesecake baked in a springform pan, and I eventually made that, but that brings you the first biggest problem with this device.  In order to make a real sized cheesecake I had to make 2 batches, 1 at a time and pour them into the pan.

Oh and on the cheesecake note, while it touts it's power, it had a rough time with the cream cheese, since my impatience felt no need to wait for it to warm up any.  It even stopped on me a couple times.  I have to admit that it always recovered and worked at a later date, but there were a few times I thought I had created the Magic Paperweight!

Their claims on it being perfect to pulse chop things, are more like wishes and hopes.  Their perfect fresh salsa, either comes out with half a tomatoe in there or no chunks at all, and the guacamole was even worse, as the avacodo stuck to the side and didn't even get mixed.

You might be wondering will we be making baby food in the Magic bullet, and my answer is, more than likely not.  While it's a nice size for such a job, I'd rather take out my full size food processor as it's much easier to clean and get better consistency, as I had quite a few issues with anything other than liquids at easily getting a smooth result.  While I believe I got my money's worth out of that little blender, I think it's one item that is destined to be retired.  It's been replaced for a full size blender at 1/3rd the cost and a food processor, both of which I find much easier to clean and do a better job.

My final result while cute and a definite talking piece,  I'm not sure it's entirely worth the money.  The look of it isn't something that most would leave sitting on the counter, and the effectiveness at getting a consistent end result are my biggest issues with it, I think for my money I'd rather get a small 3 cup food processor for chopping jobs, and a cheap blender for my smoothies.

Final Results:  Pass it up.

        Size, doesn't take up much counter space, and the pieces don't take up much room to wash.
        Excellent for a quick single serve smoothie
        Too small, unless you are making a single serve smoothie for yourself you will be doing multiple batches.
         Doesn't chop or mix evenly at all, unless you are liquifying things.
         Cleaning out the the larger "cup"  is a pain.
         Motor can struggle mixing things like cool cream cheese.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Option for the muncher.

Let's face it,  I think everyone of us has the habit and desire to munch while relaxing, whether it be popcorn during a movie, soft pretzel while we walk the mall, or some cookies while relaxing to our favorite prime time tv show.  I know I'm guilty of it, so I will start...."Hi I'm Steve and I'm a muncher!"

Yes I'm as guilty if not more so than a lot of you, and I have tried healthy alternatives, whether it be fruit or vegetables.   The problem I've found with most is that I can take down a whole carrot, or an apple in no time flat, and even though I know it's all in my mind, it's not the same as munchable foods.  There is something satisfying about sitting there and eating a lot of little things.  Grapes are the first alternative that usually come to mind, and while it may be a better choice than that bag of Reese's Pieces,  we need choices and variety.  My new alternative idea is take out your food processor and that slicing disc and go to town bagging up some fresh veggies.  I have started with celery.

I know that some people will say, just grab a stick of celery and munch away, but holding onto a stick of celery we will eat it till it's gone and either move on to something else or get more and more.  In my personal experience, while I still might sit there and eat it till the bowl or bag is empty, I still tend to take more time to eat a stalk of celery if I have to eat small pieces bit by bit. If you want some proof of this fact, look at past gatherings, where only a vegetable relish tray is sitting out.  Doesn't it last a good while, but look around, most people will continue to get piece after piece.

So now not only have I gotten my fix of using my kitchen gadget, I've bagged up a couple of healthy alternatives that I can munch on through my next movie.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My First Food Processor

Ok, I'm not young, but not old either.  And I've been cooking for ages since I was 10 at the very latest, probably earlier.  And while I've picked up and looked at many a gadgets, for the longest time I saw little to no use for a food processor, and was detracted by the enourmous cost difference of the models out there.   I've learned in other areas you get what you pay for, but I also avoid paying for the best for something I may use the least.   So when looking at food processors online, I was overwhelmed with options and prices.   And let's face it reviews online are only partially helpful.  Who really posts reviews about an item, either those who have had a bad experience or marketing gurus for the company who post the same review on several sites.  I tend to lead toward brands from which I've had good experiences.  So in this instance when I finally decided I wanted to get a food processor, I was slightly lured toward KitchenAid.  So I looked heavily at KitchenAid, but at $100 for the 7 cup, I really wasn't convinced that was the way to go.  I was hard pressed to say if it was large enough for what I wanted and for $100 thats a lot to find out that it wasn't large enough.  But to go up to the larger 12 cup model was a pretty big jump in price.  When I could get a 14 cup Black and Decker for half the price of the KitchenAid 7 cup.  Oh decisions, decisions!!!

Finally my mind was made up for me.   While wondering around Target, as usual I was inexplicably dragged towards to the kitchen section (yes that unknown force of what I really need for my kitchen, well maybe it's want, but as my 2 year old son uses them interchangeably, why can't I?)  The KitchenAid 7 cup was on clearance for $30 off.  Even though it was still $70 and more than the larger Black and Decker, it is after all a KitchenAid, that same brand that makes those powerhouse mixers that we all want to own.

Well I'm happy to say, I couldn't be happier with the end results.   I've managed to fit enough into it for most of my concerned items.  While I did empty it a couple times while slicing potatoes, I think it's a small consolation for the space it saves me and the ability to leave it out, that my wife has afforded to me while I am still in the experimentation phase.

Thus far I have made pie crust (so simple and fast with a food processor), pumpkin cheesecake, sliced up potatoes for a dish, and some homemade ham salad from cold cuts.  This device thus far has earned a place on my counter as something I think i will probably use quite often. 

So for my first recipe I will share my simple ham salad.

Ham Salad:
3-4 medium sliced pieces of your favorite ham.
1 stalk of celery
1 hard boiled egg
2 tablespoons of relish
Mayo or Miracle whip to taste

Place all the ingredients minus the Mayo into the food processor, pulse a few times till it is as chunky or smooth as you like.  You could include the mayo as well, but I was too afraid of over pulverizing the ingredients, so I chopped this up and the combined it with mayo in a seperate bowl. Simple ham salad for appetizers or sandwiches. 

Bon apetit

Welcome to the first edition!

Welcome to the first installlment of the The Gadget Chef.  I'm just an ordinary guy, who enjoy's cooking, but I'm always looking for ways to make cooking quicker and easier without sacrificing taste.  I've also been trying to incorporate more healthy ways to cook too.  I've tried many gadgets out there, some with success and some with miserable failures.  But my biggest goal is to limit what space I take up with what gadgets.  As a person with a less than sizable kitchen, counter top real estate is so important I can't be the type that has several gadgets out all the time, and I'm also the type that if it's not out and handy, I'm likely not to use it.
So through the course of this blog I will give out some info on those items I've gotten over the years and how I use them, and some recipes, and be sure to share yours too, or comment if you've tried them.