Anyone who enjoys cooking or baking, or even preparing food just because they have too, has their favorites–utensils, appliances, gadgets, etc. In this post, I’ll discuss some of mine, and would love to hear both your thoughts on them and some of your favorite items.
I’m a big believer in learning how to use a proper knife, and almost always cut things up by hand to maintain that skill. Although I haven’t used a great variety of knives, my favorite so far have been a set of Miyako ceramic knives, purchased at least five years ago, maybe more, and a few paring knives from Pampered Chef. These are the sharpest knives I’ve used, and the Pampered Chef knives have a coating that helps keep things from sticking.
Although I only have one of the Miyako knives left (the 8-inch), it is my go-to knife for cutting things like herbs and small greens which can elude other knives. The only downside to the Miyako knives is that the joining with the handle can wear–the small paring knife was re-glued before breaking in a fall to the floor, and the santaku knife came to a similar fate. The blades themselves are highly durable.
The Pampered Chef knives are relatively new, and I’ve had them less than a year, but they are great and I enjoy using them.
You might ask what this tool is, as I did when I was first looking for one. It is a tool used to juice fruits such as lemons or oranges. DH got me a beautiful olive wood one for Christmas last year, and I highly regret not getting one until then. It takes mere seconds to juice half a lemon. Let me repeat: seconds. Considering how much I enjoy citrus, I love this tool so so much.
Rice Paddles and Spatulas
At the most basic level, rice paddles and spatulas are my basic go-to items for stirring and mixing of any kind, whether in a bowl or a pan on the stove. I love a multi-purpose implement, and these are two of the most versatile in my kitchen. What’s not to love about that?
Small Food Processor
I have two food processors, but if I can possibly use the smaller one, I will. Quite simply, it has far fewer pieces and is thus much easier to clean. Not to mention it doesn’t take up nearly as much space. The one I currently have had belonged to my great aunt. Although I’m not sure she ever used it, it became mine when she passed away, along with a few other things. Not only do I sometimes think of her while using it, it’s way more convenient than the large one.
My other favorite thing is a nice whisk. I’m not sure exactly why, but the ones with the metal handles just make me happy.
The older I get, the more things I find or discover that I want to try making. Like, literally every time I watch an episode of The Great British Bake Off ( The Great British Baking Show in America). Ironically, the older I get, I also have less time and energy. While there are things I have made, the list of things I want to make someday, even if only once, to say that I have, is large.
- Hollandaise sauce
- roast a head of garlic
- beef Wellington
- lemon curd
- chocolate and fruit tarts with glaze
- whipped honey
- jelly donuts
- Eccles cakes
- ricotta or mascarpone
- sugared edible plants
- sugar cubes
- de-seeded jam
- ice cubes with flowers inside
- ice cream
- puff pastry
- proper trifle
- Mary Berry’s cherry cake
- rainbow cake
- chocolate work
- lace cookies
- spiralized veggie pasta
- breakfast pizza
- spun sugar
- caramelized sweet bacon
- onion rings
- seafood bisque
- pears poached in wine
- pastry cream
- choux pastry
- English muffins
These are just the things I’ve thought of now (with the help of my Pinterest boards). Things I have made include:
- Queen of Sheba cake
- butternut squash pie
- raisin pie
- nut butters
- canning in general (fruit butters, pickles, brandied cherries)
I’m sure there are more, but that’s what I can think of at the moment.
Have you made any of these? What’s on your list? Please share in the comments.
Every household has requests for favorite foods and meals, ours being no exception. Some of our favorite things to make may not get made often, but get a huge reception, and may become special things that our family eats or recipes that we make over and over. Family gatherings and friends often request items once we know we make them. Please do let me know your impressions of our favorites, and share your own!
Brownies: I’ve become known for bringing cakes and desserts, especially to church gatherings, and often asked about my brownies. While I do use a mix for these, I load them up with chocolate chips (a whole small bag) and marshmallows (half a bag). The marshmallows at the top usually cook and burst, making a bit of crunch where they appear. If you make these, make sure to bake for exactly the time allowed unless the actual batter hasn’t cooked; they are extremely gooey and can make appear uncooked when it’s just the melt from the chocolate chips.
Chicken in a Biscuit: This recipe came to me from a family friend while in high school, and I do still pull it out once in a great while. A filling of chicken and cream cheese is sealed into puff pastry, such as crescent roll dough, and baked in the oven. It is divine, and can also be done casserole style with the dough laid across the top. I cut up the chicken into small pieces and cook it in a skillet with onions and seasoning before adding it to the mixture.
Crab Dip: Hot or cold will do. Our hot crab dip recipe comes from a woman at our church and is everything you’d want in a warm dairy-seafood dip, while the cold one is my mom’s, traditionally made for new year’s eve parties and finished the next morning for breakfast.
Mac ‘n Cheese: While rather self explanatory, my version uses the cheese sauce from Kitchen Treaty. I’ve made many, many versions of mac and cheese, this this is by far the best. DH’s family eats this at just about every gathering and holiday, which I, understandably, wholeheartedly embraced. This image is one before baking–tons of sauce!
Raisin Pie: This is one I make for Dad, and me, mostly, either at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. It’s an annual event where I look forward to eating it, and other people get the chance to try it, as well. Over the last few years I’ve come up with a version I like very much. To me, the lusciousness of this pie requires a deep pie plate, an entire large (12–15 oz.) canister of raisins, and I never use a top crust. The sauce made with the boiling water from the raisins is absolutely delicious on its own, as well.
Ramen: Once in a while, we enjoy a large bowl of ramen. It’s very comforting, rather like chicken noodle soup, but more substantial and great on a cold night. I recently got large ramen bowls for serving this, so even better. Mine is usually made with stock, veggies, and of course, Asian style fish cakes.
Tater Tot Casserole: One word: YUM. This is probably the one meal that DH requests the most. Our favorite version is here, with a great ham flavor. But no matter what you put in it, it’s cheesy, creamy, and full of potato goodness. It is not the same without the sour cream.
4–5 cups cooked rice
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4–1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp chives
1/2–3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Heat a pan with olive oil and saute onions and garlic. Add walnuts for the last few minutes and toast. Add to pre-cooked rice along with other ingredients. Adjust seasonings and herbs to taste.
5 peppers, tops and seeds removed, and blanched for 3–5 minutes
2 cans worth of tomato sauce
Add sauce to the rice mixture until you are happy with the consistency. Put a layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish or casserole. Stuff the peppers with the rice mixture and place in dish. Top with extra cheese if desired. Add remainder of mixture to dish if desired. Spoon extra sauce over rice and peppers.
Cook at 350 F until heated through.
This recipe can be made ahead and kept chilled until you’re ready to cook it. My mom freezes hers sometimes, which I imagine you can do before or after cooking.
House sitting for my parents again, and went out to bring in the ripe vegetables in the garden. There’s another pot of tomato sauce on the stove, and we have broccoli and eggplant for dinner. Not sure what I’ll do with all the peppers yet, but they should keep. I’m disproportionally excited about the eggplant.
After the past weekend, I feel very productive. Although most Saturdays involve both cleaning and cooking, we were also home more than usual on Sunday and cleaned out the fridge. This followed the freezer cleanout on Saturday. Both, naturally, led to other projects. Suffice it to say, I did a lot of cooking and consolidation–not all of it planned. I also made myself a nice breakfast Saturday. I could spend days doing this stuff and hardly leave the house, so I feel rather accomplished, though we’ll see how long that lasts.
Further, I’ve been on a quest to use up the entire bag of limes I bought last week. Not my usual citrus purchase, so I figured why not change it up a bit?
Saturday morning starts out with a round of dishes. Pretty normal so far. Next, a large pork roast with a marinade of soy, honey, garlic and lime juice from here. It was an 8 lbs. roast at a ridiculously low price, and has been taking up way too much room in the freezer ever since. It just fit in the crock pot. Doubled the marinade recipe. But, most of freezer problem solved. Pork is delicious.
There were two peaches left from the week, which isn’t enough to make fruit butter. However, there was a pint of blueberries in the freezer. More space in the freezer, and no wasted fruit. It made exactly 1 jar and 3 spoonfuls (guess where they went?).
Blueberry Peach Butter
- 2 peaches, cut into large chunks, skin on
- 2 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup honey
Meanwhile, I’ve done a second load of dishes, started the big pot for iced tea, and seriously debate whether to make breakfast. Seduced by runny eggs and cheese, and the oil-herb cubes in the freezer, I do.
Fake Eggs Benedict
- 2 slices of toast
- 2 eggs
- 1 oil-herb cube
- 2 slices lunch meat
- 3 slices cheese
At this point, I stop to eat and work on a writing project I owe someone. Some parts still need typed, but most of it’s ready. Still working on some unfinished parts as we speak. Then shopping (this week’s haul: mushrooms, greens, parsley, onions, nectarines, strawberries, pears, lemons, cherries, eggplant). Back at home, I’m crazy enough to do more.
I decided, during the freezer cleanout in the morning, to make stock from the chicken bones and veg refuse that were in the freezer. End of freezer space issues, and that goes on the stove, as well. Pork is looking nice with basting every few hours, butter is simmering–did I mention the immersion blender is a great tool? I don’t like breaking out the food processor for small batches.
Since I can’t take a nap at this point, so veg on the movie and work on the typing project. This is what happens when you do most of your draft material by hand. Eventually the stock is done, and I can turn things off and go take a nap. Saturday napping is a must, especially when you need to get stuff done.
Ingredients for fish tacos–the first idea to get through the limes–have been building all week. So I made those for dinner. Cue more cooking, though this time it’s mostly knife work and mixing. Made two new things for them, lime crema which I took from here and an Asian slaw. By that time, we were so tired and hungry they were inhaled before any pictures could be taken.
Quick Asian Slaw
- 3 cups cole slaw mix
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 2 Tbps red wine vinegar
Sunday I have a major headache, and by the time I’m able to get up, church is out of the question. However, I have to put the pork in the fridge at this point, so cue fridge cleanout. There are 5 jars of pickles in there. 5. Homemade. We aren’t buying any more until those are gone. Then, there are over 2 quarts of fruit butter, never canned. Really, no idea. Just that nebulous “stuff” was down there. And that really won’t do. Out comes the canner.
If you don’t know much about canning, it’s easy, but a timesuck. It takes forever to boil that much water. So I do the rest of the prep, wash up most of the dishes from tacofest (only then can I put the crock pot in the sink and soak it; as far as I know it’s still there), work on the typing project. At least I’m stocking stuff for Christmas.
The rest of the day was taken up with family and birthday celebrations (not mine).
Still have 2 lbs. of cherries to pit.