allrecipes staffblogs krista's staffblog

January 20, 2005

Tool Geek

“I just made bacon and eggs and it was so much fun!” I smiled. It was 7:00, and my friend and I had each been home for about an hour when she called. What was so fun about making eggs? Good tools.

Too many people think that cooking is a chore. And it can be, for many reasons, but one reason is that there is so much bad cooking equipment out there. She had been using beat up, lightweight pans for so long that cooking was a chore. We had spent the afternoon at our local kitchenware store for their January sale, and now, with her new purchase of a high quality set of pans, even the simple act of frying an egg was reason to celebrate.

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a kitchen tool geek. I like the good stuff, no late night TV huckster all- in- one tools for me. I started collecting my knives when I was a teenager - I have 15 now, and there are only a few that I don’t use regularly (ok, I’ll admit, that flexible fish knife is a bit goofy!) Hand tools? I’m a sucker for ‘em. I just counted, and even I’m surprised to admit that I have 23 spoons, spatulas, scrapers, tongs, and whisks - so many that they don’t fit in those polite little containers that you buy at the kitchen store. No, I had to get a huge flower pot to hold all of them!

I’ve replaced my own ‘starter’ pots and pans, and now I have a couple of heavyweight 6 qt pots, an 10 qt stockpot, a 2 qt saucepan, a huge cast iron frying pan, and today’s addition of two heavyweight frying pans and a great big roasting pan and rack. I can finally get rid of that formerly non-stick frying pan. (Ever notice that they’re only nonstick for about 6 months?) I’m eyeing a few more saucepans…and…well, I’m sure I’ll figure out a few more things I must have by the time the next sale comes around in September!

January 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2005

Carb Fest

Our card game yesterday turned into an interesting experiment. While we always bring food, this time we had a “Tea” theme. We had five kinds of tea sandwiches, deviled eggs, salad, scones, crumpets, jams, cream, and fruit salad, an assortment of cookies, chocolate fudge and Tarte Tatin, along with a variety of teas. We always joke that we “never have enough food”.

We start the day by putting out the buffet, and we have a chat, eat a bit, and catch up with each other before we start playing the game. We graze throughout the afternoon, taking little snacks between hands, and have our dessert after the last hand.

Well, we soon realized, just a little bit into the first round, that we all seemed to be a bit “off”. As the day moved on, we were slower in making decisions, made more mistakes, and it took about an hour longer than usual to play. We thought that the caffeine in all the tea we were drinking might perk us up, but it didn’t. We realized that it was the food - mostly simple carbs, with the white flour in the bread, scones, and crumpets, and all that sugar, butter, and cream. We all try to eat healthily, and this food was definitely out of the norm for us - a “simple” carb - fest. It was fascinating to see the direct correlation between “bad” food and sluggish performance at the card table, and confirmed that we were doing well to avoid these foods other than as occasional treats. We agreed, however, that we really enjoyed this indulgence!

I am also pleased to report that my Tarte Tatin turned out quite well. This Tarte is slices of apples baked in a caramel sauce, with a single crust on top. To unmold it, you place your serving plate firmly on top of the pan, hold it tight, and flip it over quickly, so that the whole assembly drops from the pan to the plate, without sending scalding caramel flying across the kitchen. The result (hopefully) is a crispy pastry crust topped with gorgeous caramelized apple slices, which is served with very lightly sweetened whipped cream. Despite the previous array of food, we managed to eat most of it!


January 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

Grocery Hopping

I was at the grocery store last night – actually, I was at both of the grocery stores that I go to. Like everyone else, I have to balance my desire for delicious food with my pocketbook (that old “Champagne taste, beer budget” conundrum), and I find that this leads me to shop in multiple stores. I don’t cut coupons, because they’re usually for processed foods that I don’t eat. And in-store specials are usually for larger amounts of food that I can use. A bargain’s not a bargain if half of it goes to waste.

Luckily, where I live, there is an abundance of grocery stores, from basic to upscale (Foie Gras, anyone?), and a Trader Joe’s. If you don’t know TJ’s, they have fantastic quality foods that they source themselves, and then sell for much less than regular stores. When I shop, I go there first, to get those items (milk, salad fixin’s, soy burgers, olive oil, etc.), then I go over to the regular store to fill in the gaps (more veggies and fruit, meats, and my favorite whole grain bread). I’m certainly not alone in this, as I always see the same people at the second store that I just saw at TJ’s half an hour before.

I also shop at the local Farmer’s Markets in season, where we lucky Puget Sounders have an embarrassment of riches for local produce. And I’m a year-round “Marketeer” – a regular at the Pike Place Market, the legendary, 100 year old Public Market here in Seattle. I love the Market! Oh, my, it’s half the reason I moved to Seattle 12 years ago. Acres of produce vendors, butchers, fish stores, delis, restaurants, and crafts, with that stellar view of the Sound, and Mountains. Add the historic buildings, buskers, and a swirl of locals and tourists, and it’s just the most joyful place I know in Seattle. I’ll post more about the Market later.

Lunch today is a Smoked Salmon and cucumber sandwich with lemon and pepper and a salad. I consider it a delicious trial run for the Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches I’m bringing to the card game on Sunday. I don’t always eat all that fish that we’re supposed to get in our diets, so smoked salmon is, for me an easy way to make sure I get those valuable fish oils. (Don’t worry - I got it for a great price at Trader Joe’s!)

January 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2005

Healthy City, Healthy Office?

Scotty mentioned that article which declared Seattle to be the healthiest city in the US. I hope that’s true, but who really knows?

Here in the office at Allrecipes, we definitely have a focus on healthy eating. At lunchtime, as people drift into the kitchen to prepare their meals, I see lots of vegetables coming out of those brown bags in the fridge. If someone has leftovers, it’s from a healthy, lowfat meal. Our Dev Maven had butternut squash couscous the other day, and it looked really good! Our Tech Man makes his sandwiches on wholegrain bread, no mayo, and always piles on layers of fresh spinach. I’m committed to eating low fat, and having lots of whole grains in my meals. Today’s lunch was a leftover sauté with onions, garlic, fresh spinach, brown basmati rice and chicken, seasoned with curry, topped with nonfat yogurt.

It seems that snacks around here are either fruit, or someone fires up the popcorn machine. Is it that we’re trying to practice what we preach? Perhaps. With what we do, we’re certainly aware of what a healthy diet can do for you, and what an unhealthy diet will do to you.

Of course, like any other office, if someone brings in ‘bad’ food, to get it out of their house, it does disappear very quickly. I guess that’s just the “If it’s free, it doesn’t count” principle, right?

January 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005

What to make?

It snowed on Sunday in Seattle. It wasn’t much, just an inch here in the city, which disappeared by the afternoon. Having grown up in the Midwest, I appreciate snow, but what I really appreciate is that in Seattle, it doesn’t last very long! I decided to take advantage of the cold weather and made a batch of Chicken Chili.  Michelle's Blonde Chicken Chili

I’m planning my contributions for my gang’s card game. We play about once a month, and while we always have a potluck, we don’t usually plan what each person will bring. We generally have a good variety of tasty treats, but I do remember the one game we had to dub the “Cheese Tasting”, as we wound up with 7 kinds, including 4 bleu! We all took a lot of cheese home…

This time, we’ve decided to do a proper ‘Tea’, so we’re actually coordinating what we’re bringing. So far, we’ve got a variety of tea sandwiches, scones, and I’m bringing some kind of an Apple Tart. I have until Sunday to decide, but at this point I’m not sure if I want to do a free-form, rustic tart,, a Frangipane Tart with apple slices (the most traditional) French Apple Tart , or a Tart Tatin (the most fun and dramatic) Ah, well, I have until Saturday to decide.

I’m also bringing smoked salmon tea sandwiches. They're very simple, just buttered brown bread and smoked salmon, but I always add a touch of freshly ground pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. Since I’m going to be trimming these up into attractive tea sized sandwiches, I’m looking forward to nibbling on the discarded edges!

January 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)