What’s the Difference?

Yellow, White, and Red Onions

onions.jpg

Today, I decided to make Gyros for dinner and was looking up recipes for the sauce and what to add in the Gyro itself. Most recipes called for onions, not specifying which to use.  I got curious about why you use certain onions for certain things and can they be interchangeable.  I found the following information useful.

Wonder why some recipes call for a particular kind of onion and whether another can be substituted in its place?

 

All these onions vary slightly in flavor, texture, and color, but can usually be substituted for one another. In terms of cooking, they will all behave the same in the pan.

When buying onions, go for ones that feel heavy in your hand and firm. Avoid soft onions or ones that have a sharp oniony odor before peeling. These are indications that the onion is old. Except for sweet onions, all these onions can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

 

Yellow Onions  This is the all-purpose onion, and it’s the one we use most often. Yellow onions have a nice balance of astringency and sweet in their flavor, becoming sweeter the longer they cook. They are usually fist-sized and have a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers. Spanish onions are a particular kind of yellow onion and we find them to be slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.

 

White Onions – These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They tend to be more tender and have a thinner, more papery skin. They can be cooked just like yellow onions, but we like them minced and added to raw salsas and chutneys.

 

Sweet Onions – Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. These onions lack the sharp, astringent taste of other onions and really do taste sweet. They are fantastic thinly sliced and served in salads or on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator.

 

Red Onions – With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are really the odd guys out in the onion family. They are fairly similar to yellow onions in flavor, though their layers are slightly less tender and meaty. Red onions are most often used in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes washed out during cooking. If you find their flavor to astringent for eating raw, try soaking them in water before serving.

Onions are a garden favorite and can be eaten raw, in salsas and salads, and cooked into your favorite recipes. Home gardeners can choose from onion varieties that are mildly sweet to pungent. Because onions are affected by the amount of light they receive, some grow better in the North, while others perform better in the South. Short-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 10-12 hours and are often the sweetest and best for eating raw. They’re most often grown in the South. Long-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 14-16 hours. They are usually pungent, often store well for many months, and are usually grown in the North. Day-neutral onions are a cross of the two types. Onions can be started from seeds, sets, and plants.

Shallots

Shallots have a subtle flavor that is much milder than onions or garlic and are a favorite of gourmet cooks. Their flavor really shines when sautéed in butter or olive oil. Like green onions, their green shoots and bulbs are edible and the green shoots can be used as a green onion or scallion substitute. While shallots can be grown from seed, growing them from sets is often easiest. After harvest, cured bulbs can be stored for up to six months.

Leeks

Leeks look like overgrown green onions but have a milder, more delicate flavor than onions. The white base and green stalk are used for cooking in creamy soups, fresh, stocks and more. Leeks can be direct seeded outdoors or started indoors and transplanted into the garden. Thinning during the growing allows the plant to grow much larger. After harvest, leeks can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks—or they can be dried for storage.

Remember…

Onions, shallots, and leeks are not considered interchangeable when it comes to cooking, even though some blogs and websites might say they are interchangable. Make sure you use whichever your recipe calls for, as the distinct flavor of each may alter the taste of your dish.

 

Do you have a favorite kind of onion?

 

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Definitely, regular use of the range hood fan and cleaning of the filters is a good way to remove the odors and nasty fumes created by cooking.One thing I’d like to point out about reducing the oily residue that adheres to the exhaust fan is that certain cooking techniques create more sticky, aerosolized nastiness than others, and some grease and oil films are more resistant to cleanup than others, too, esp if allowed to sit and harden.Stir frying is the worst for creating aerosolized oily fumes that cling to surfaces around the stove and kitchen, with or without a range hood fan. The heat, the open pan, the constant motion continually kicks up oily fumes that settle on surfaces much farther than most cooks realize.Cooking low and slow takes more time, but also reduces the amount of oil and grease splattering into the air and around the stove, often producing better food in the process. Simmering, braising, and slow cooking generally create less oily mess to clean up overall. Cooking in a pressure cooker saves time and keeps open pot cooking time to a minimum, therefore reduces splatter and aerosolized fumes.Furthermore, oil sprays, such as PAM and knockoffs, create a LOT of sticky, persistent aerosolized oil drift that is VERY difficult to wash away once it hardens and dries – newer formulas claim to create less residue on cookware, but less isn’t none. Spray cookware over the sink for easier cleanup of overspray, or spray outside the house (or better yet, don’t spray at all and avoid filling lungs with oily spray, too).Cooking in open pans with polyunsaturated oils from seeds (vegetable oil, canola, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil sunflower oil, etc., tends to promote oily fume creation. Fumes from polyunsaturated oils settle on surfaces and then become rancid, hardened, and quite plasticized. These films are very resistant to scrubbing and cleansers.I have found that cooking with traditional and more stable fats like butter, ghee, tallow, bacon drippings, duck fat, and coconut or palm oil tends creates less oily fumes (esp if food is cooked low and slow instead of stir-frying and high heat sautéing). Splatters will still occur round the pan perhaps, but they tend not to aerosolize and form thin sticky fumes that create resistant films to the same extent as polyunsaturated oils when they settle on kitchen surfaces.I became aware of the the change in the rate of oily film buildup in my range hood and surfaces adjacent to my stove when my cooking changed over the past few years – I had stopped using and buying seed oils and making quick sauté recipes. Instead I made more traditional braising and simmering recipes using traditional fats instead of oils. The lack of oily film buildup after several years of cooking differently was particularly noticeable when we were away for four months last year and had house sitters in our house during our absence; they stir fried most of their meals on high heat with a liquid oil. While the stove and kitchen was generally clean at first glance when we returned home, an oily residue had settled inside and outside the range hood and on the cabinets around the stove , and was far worse than I’d ever experienced with my own cooking, even when the range fan hadn’t been working.
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What’s the Difference?

Simple Kitchen Habits

It doesn’t have to be fancy to be a little more efficient.

Whether you learned to cook from your parents, taught yourself on YouTube, or graduated from a culinary program, we all have certain ways about moving about the space of a kitchen. Some of those are deeply ingrained, and you might not even realize that you’re doing them. Some of them might be thanks to the space that you’re working in, or the particular mechanics of the food you prepare at home.  A culinary techniques program might help you to step back and reassess the way that you use your kitchen and make cooking easier.

Having proper equipment is important. A good sturdy bowl and cutting board will make your life easier. How you organize your space and move through it might be one of the first things to change in your kitchen. Here are a few good kitchen habits that will help.

Read the Recipe All the Way Through First

This might seem like really obvious advice to you, sort of like “measure twice, cut once.” But it’s easy to glance through the list of ingredients and the basic preparation without looking through the whole recipe, only to realize that it requires more time or different equipment than you have on hand. It’s equally easy to miss what turns out to be a crucial step when you’re working quickly and haven’t seen it before. Take time and read it, and get into the habit of always doing that before you even set off to the grocery store, and it will save you a lot of hassle.

Invest in Kitchen Towels

At the beginning of every class for my culinary program, I would set up my station, which meant cleaning and sanitizing my workspace, setting up my knives and tools, grabbing a giant cutting board from a rack, and folding a stack of side towels into quarters so I could easily grab them. I went through probably five towels a class, and we used them for everything. They act as potholders and as an easy way to stabilize a bowl you’re whipping cream or to put under your cutting board to keep it in place.  At the end of class, we put them in a giant laundry bag.

At home, it’s easy to be precious about your kitchen towels, which are often printed with something decorative. If you don’t have kitchen towels that you don’t mind staining, grab some cheap ones at Home Goods or TJX Maxx. Keep a stack of them easily available to you while you work. Use a towel or two each time you’re doing serious cooking, and then throw it in the wash. It’ll cut down a lot on your paper towels, and you’ll always have something handy to insulate your hand from a hot pan or wipe up a small spatter.

Hone Your Knife Often

A dull knife is an enemy of even knife cuts, and of your fingers. But people tend to concentrate far more on sharpening their knives than honing them, and honing can maintain your knife’s sharpness a lot more easily. When you sharpen a knife, you’re actually taking a small amount of the material off the blade of the knife to return it to its edge. Unless you’re using your knife very heavily every day you probably don’t need to sharpen your knife more than once or twice a year. Instead, you can realign the blade using a honing rod, and help extend the sharpness of your knives. It helps to hone it fairly often when you’re cooking, whenever you feel the blade begin to drag a bit. And it’s much cheaper than buying a new knife.

Now I personally found this advice off, as I re-sharpen mine every time I use it.

Have a Trash Bowl

When you’re prepping vegetables or meat, designate a bowl nearby that you can put scraps from your cutting board into. That way you don’t have to interrupt your workflow by running to dump things into the trash every few minutes, and you can more clearly see what kind of scraps you’re working with and whether they’d be useful for something like a chicken stock later on.

In my kitchen the trash is right below where I cut and chop, so I finish I just scrap it into the trash, but I was lucky enough to design my own kitchen.

Keep Two Olive Oils on Hand

Olive oil is one of the things you tend to go through a lot of in the kitchen if you cook a lot, and though it would be nice use extremely nice olive oil for everything, it doesn’t make sense, or even for the flavors of lots of things. For that reason have one more affordable but still good olive oil on hand for everyday tasks like cooking eggs or vegetables, and one higher-end one in a smaller bottle for drizzling over salad or good bread, when the flavor is really pronounced. For every day, California Olive Ranch’s Every Day Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes a great oil that’s available and affordable, and for when I want something peppery and a little nicer,  reaching Gaea’s DOP Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Use what tastes good to you and what you can afford. Just make sure that you’re storing it well and use it within a few months. Otherwise, no matter how nice your oil is, it’ll go rancid.

Keep Your Salt Easily Accessible and Use It Liberally

 

The single easiest thing you can do to make yourself a better cook is to put the salt you use for seasoning in a bowl, rather than keeping it in a shaker or a container with a pour spout. It’s a really good habit to get into because you can more easily add pinches or palmfuls of salt into what you’re making and get a feel for how much you need for it to taste right. It’s also easy to be afraid of adding salt for fear of making a dish too salty. When you’re seasoning a dish, using salt is what makes the ingredients taste more like themselves.

Weigh, Don’t Measure

This is another adage that you’ve probably heard, but it is shocking how much a kitchen scale can make a difference in your whole cooking and baking game. But the measuring spoons and cups are probably right there, and well, it’s easier to reach for them. Make it easy to reach for the scale and a bowl, and you’ll get in the habit of doing that for ingredients that really need to be precise, like flour or sugar when baking.

Prep Before You Start Cooking

No one has unlimited times in their lives. It’s a normal thing to want to start the dish and the cut up the carrots or celery or whatever to go into it. And it’s a strategy that can work, or it can leave you frantically hacking at the tomatoes while the onions go from brown to burned in the pan. If you have your ingredients measured and prepped before you start, it’s going to make the cooking process that much smoother. There’s often room in recipes for you to cut and prep things while something else is simmering, a thing you’ll discover when you read the recipe all the way through. But at least prepare the things you know you’re going to need immediately, or during a time-sensitive step in the process. Leave the garnish for later.

Pay Attention to Ingredient Temperature

Can you use the egg straight from the refrigerator or does it need to come to room temperature? In baking, you’ve probably run into butter that needs to be softened or melted and cooled before incorporating it into a batter. Other cooking is the same way, particularly when it comes to proteins. Letting your meat come to room temperature will help it cook more evenly, and having your water hot or cold before you add it can alter the outcome of what you’re making. Making a mental note to keep tabs on how warm things are while your working is a good habit to get into.

Simple Kitchen Habits

Another Weekend of Art Class

This last weekend I took another three-day class at The Winslow Art Center on Bainbridge Island.  Martha Jordan brings in wonderful artists from all over the country to teach workshops.  This last weekend, Stanley Bielen came in from the East Coast to teach beautifully simplified small paintings to a group of fifteen from all over the country.

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We all had individual vignettes set up around the room.  It was so fun to see what people selected and then what they painted.  I learned a lot from the teacher and from watching the approach of other artists in the class.  I started to say “students”, but for the most part, the class was full of very accomplished artists.

I stopped to talk to a friend downstairs and by the time I returned after the morning demo, the only spot left was the one where Stanley had painted the demo, so I decided I would give it a try.

Stanley 1.jpg

These are small paintings at about 6″ x 8″, so this is even a little larger than the actual painting.  Being pleased with this I moved on the next day to a set-up of my own.

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This is not quite as loose as what Stanley was sharing, but it was fun and I felt good about it, which is not always the case.

In the afternoon, I looked at the choices available and found this beautiful little teapot, and thought it would be fun.  Laughing a little, I placed a quince bough in the spout and had fun painting this. Stanley made a couple of painting strokes, that really made a difference in the painting.

Tea Pot.jpg

Keep in mind that I am not a “flower” painter.  Ever since I was in Art School in the ’70s, and the teacher in one of my first-semester art classes said, after I produced a three foot by three foot abstract, that he was surprised, as he always thought I would just be a flower painter, I have kind of steered clear of flowers.  If you look back in your life, I think most of us would be amazed by the power that a small quick comment may have had on our lives. Teachers have more power than we often think.

Feeling good about my little teapot (short and stout) I returned to the “table of treasures”, as I called it with lots and lots of flowers, some fruit, and vegetables and tried to figure out how I could avoid painting flowers.

Ah, the Bok Choy.  One other artist painted it laying on its side, but I thought: “Let the Bok Choy stand tall”. Not sure it came out as tall, but at least it does look like a Bok Choy.

 

Bok Choy.jpg

That was the end of the second day and I have to admit I was a little tired. My sweet husband suggested we just go out to dinner.  I thought that was a great idea and had a few glasses of champagne with dinner, came home and had a couple glasses of wine.  I awoke with a not so happy headache but took some ibuprofen and was off to class.  Arriving at class, I realized I was tired and not really “on”.  I discovered that day that how you feel makes a difference to your creativity.  I did two more small paintings, but walked away, not liking either one of them.

One of the women in the class brought in a vase of amazing Camillias, so I thought: ” Humm, they are big, maybe I can paint one.”

Camillia.jpg

Stanley liked it, but it does not “sing” to me.  I might try more flowers just to see if I can do it more successfully.  The last painting of class should be your best effort, but I find I am usually more tired at the end of the class, so don’t think it is my best.

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I realized as I finished this, that the flower was way to close to the upper left corner.  The nice thing about working on panels is that you can cut them.  So I cropped it in Photoshop and will have my husband cut it down.

yellow with crop

So I will have him chop off the bottom, and I will repaint the bottom and then I think I may actually like it.

It was a very wonderful workshop and I feel lucky I was able to take it with old friends and now some new ones.

 

Another Weekend of Art Class

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

cookie.jpgChocolate Toffee Butter Cookies – Makes 5 dozen

2 1/3 cups flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt ( I use French Gray)

1 cup unsalted butter (softened, but cool)

1 cup packed light brown sugar (not dark brown)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup toffee bits without chocolate ( I just used English Toffee bars with chocolate)

1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I used milk chocolate)

1 tbl vegetable oil (I used butter) 2/3 cup pecans toasted and finely chopped

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk them to blend.
  2. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  3. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 2 additions, and mix until blended.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Stir in the toffee bits.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Roll 2 logs about 9 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Flatten the logs into 2 1/2-inch-wide rectangles. Wrap rectangles in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm.
  6. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. With a long knife, cut the dough 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool cookies completely on the sheets. Bake remaining cookies.
  8. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, heat the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until they melt. Stir in the oil and mix until smooth.
  9. Holding one side of the cookies, dip a part of each one into the chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over the cookies with a spoon. Sprinkle pecans on top. Let the chocolate set about 1 hour.

 

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

Learning from Bad Cookies

Interesting article on how to bake a better cookie.  I have certainly learned over the years.  This is good basic information
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1. Amount of Flour

Getting the flour ratio right is crucial to a nicely textured cookie. Too much and your cookie will be dry, crumbly, and chalky. Too little and your cookies will burn easily, spread a TON, and will feel greasy to the touch. Not good!

2. The Mixing Method

It is tempting to dump all your ingredients into a bowl and stir them together all at once. Surprisingly the results aren’t terrible, but the cookies were inconsistent in flavor. On the other hand, our over-creamed batch resulted in overly tough, puck-like cookies. Finding a happy medium between doing the most and doing the least is important for both the texture and flavor of your cookies.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

3. Baking Powder

There’s a reason baking powder is never called for in cookies: Adding it results in cookies that have a Play-Doh texture and a vaguely chemical taste.

4. Eggs

You gotta have ‘em! Leaving them out will result in overly sweet balls of dough. Crunchy on the outside, doughy in the middle, and completely unsatisfying.

Soft & Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

5. Sugar

Not enough and your cookies will taste more like shortbread, too much and they’ll be crunchy, burnt, and obviously way too sweet.

6. Bake Time

We’ve all burnt a batch of cookies, so you likely know the deal with over-baked cookies. They’re dry, crumbly, and come with a slightly bitter burnt flavor. Still edible, though! Under-baked cookies are doughy, soft, and slightly greasy. Luckily, if that’s your issue, you can pop ‘em back in the oven and give them a little more time.

Learning from Bad Cookies

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

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Pasta is one of those things you’ve never going to stop making, so you should probably know how to do it well.  From the right size of pot to cooking time to storing leftovers, here are some pasta mistakes I suggest you stop making immediately.

Note: this guide is exclusive to standard, Italian-style wheat pasta. Many other types of noodles, like soba, glass, mixian, and rice vermicelli, as well as gluten-free pasta, sometimes cook differently, so for those, it’s best to consult the package for best practices.

 

1. Using a pot that’s too small

Sure, it’s a pain to wash a big stockpot, but you know what’s just plain dumb? Slowly shoving a pound of fettuccine into a one-quart saucepan until it snaps in half. When making pasta, especially longer noodles like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini, it’s best to use a big pot (one with a diameter that is at least the same length as your noodle) with plenty of water. If you don’t have a stockpot, you can actually boil pasta in a skillet.

2. Not adding enough salt to the water

It may seem bonkers to toss a fistful of salt into pasta water, but keep in mind that you’re not actually ingesting all that water. To actually have a fighting chance at seasoning the pasta while it boils, you need a lot (like several tablespoons) of salt. There really isn’t an exact measurement to use here, but I would say a good rule is three tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta. If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some. Don’t use your fancy Himalayan pink or flakey sea salts (they’re expensive and most of this salt is going down the drain), nor iodized table salt (it sucks).

3. The water isn’t really boiling

In her brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat says to evenly prepare noodles made with wheat, they must be cooked at a vigorous boil, as “the pandemonium keeps the noodles moving, preventing them from sticking to one another as they release starch.” This isn’t a mere suggestion, folks. Bring your water to a rolling boil, dump in the pasta, give it a stir, and ensure that the pot continues to boil.

4. Adding oil to pasta water

Some people think that to keep pasta from sticking itself in the pot they must add olive oil to the pot. False. If your pot is large enough, at a rolling boil, and you’ve stirred the noodles around after dumping them in, there’s no reason pasta should stick to itself or to the pot while cooking.

5. Overcooking pasta

If you’re cooking pasta according to the package directions, odds are you’re going to overcook it. Especially if you’re planning to mix the pasta into heated sauce, pasta will taste perfectly cooked (that is, soft with a slight bite, also known as al dente) when it’s pulled out of the pot about three minutes earlier than the package says.

6. Tossing the pasta water

Most people simply dump their cooked pasta into a colander, letting all cooking liquid run down the drain. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, use a slotted spoon, spider, or tongs to pull out your pasta and drop it into your sauce or put it in a colander, leaving the pot of warm water on the stove. Starchy pasta water is the secret ingredient your sauces have been missing. Whether you’re making cacio e pepe or linguine with clams, a hefty splash of pasta water will thicken your sauce and encourage it to coat each noodle completely.

7. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Shocking pasta with cold water after it comes out of the pot will indeed stop the pasta from cooking more, but it will also rinse away all the delightful starch that helps sauce cling to noodles. To avoid the overcooking factor, see rule #5. If you’re rinsing to ensure the noodles don’t stick together, you should simply be ready to add the pasta into your sauce as soon as it comes out of the pot.

8. Storing leftovers improperly

You can get very sick from poorly stored pasta, so if you pay attention to any of these tips, make it this one. After your pasta dish is cooked and divided among plates, any leftovers should be cooled, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated. When cooked food is held at a temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF, it’s known as the “danger zone” by the USDA. Bacteria love moist foods like pasta, so any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and fully reheated before you eat them again (and it’s best not to wait more than a day). You may feel bad about throwing away food, but we all know reheated mushy pasta isn’t very good anyway.

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

Old in Art School

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When I saw the title of this book, I was immediately attracted to it. This is the year I turn seventy. At sixty-two I completed my Ph. D. in Business Marketing, not in art, although I did finish my BA in Art in 1971 and my MA in Art (although with an emphasis in interior design) in 1985. I understand going back to school when a little older is all about attitude. I laughed at the beginning of the book, as the author described the other students, the attire, the classrooms and the fear of failure, but as I listened on to the audio-book I liked it less and less.  One of the reviews of the book described how I innately felt perfectly:

“I was excited to dive into this book, hopeful for little nuggets of wisdom for my similar journey and perhaps a laugh or two in self-reflection. Instead, the reader encounters a self-indulgent, needy author who repetitively presents an inventory of her resume ad nauseam. She used this book to disparage other students all while trying to impress the reader by spewing supercilious comments and including very little about the process or art school. This book had so much potential but was so disappointing.” 

It is interesting to think that no matter how successful you were in what you did before, no one in your art classes knows that or cares about that. I had a little of that this weekend when I took a tonal painting class of street scenes.  I love the work of the man that taught the class and I learned quite a bit in the class. Mostly I learned I don’t like doing a tonal painting.  I love painting with color! Color kept creeping into my paintings in the class and I kept getting in “trouble” for adding too much color.    Sometimes in life, it is just as important to know what we don’t like, as much as what we love.

When I sat down to write my blog, I thought I would look at the artwork of the author of the book before I wrote a lot about it. Viewing her artwork, the first thought that crossed my mind was that she wrote this book, not about her real art school experience, but to promote herself and her art. Her background is in writing and history, so she knows how to write about history, but in this book, she makes being older a roadblock, not an advantage. She has gotten quite a bit of attention over the book, and thus her art. What is totally missing in this book, are all the other wonderful artists that started their art life later in life. She is certainly not alone!

Maybe I should write about starting and stopping art in your life. You start as a child and my case went on to study it in college. Then you start a career, get married, have children (oops no time for art), and in my case was widowed at a young age and raised my sons on my own and don’t have much time for art till your children are grown and have lives of their own.

When she started talking about how you have to dress to be a successful artist, I started losing interest.  Moving forward to discuss the philosophical side of the history or artists (in her opinion) I began wondering if I wanted to bother to listen to the rest of the book.

The book made me think about my own tonal experience. You can enjoy viewing art that you do not enjoy attempting. You can be award-winning in other fields and not art, and still enjoy painting. I have had many art shows, but never entered a contest with my art.

Study Terry Miura.jpg

The class was a learning experience. We worked on these small the first afternoon after watching a demo in the morning. The one on the top right was the first one with the second below and the third in ochre tones.

We moved forward painting in a slightly larger format the second day after another morning demo. My green trees are too green for tonal painting, but as I said I like “color”.

Street scene from Terry Miura Class.jpg The last and/or third day we had options of what we could paint.  I chose to paint a facade of a building, as I used to do a lot of rendering in interior design school, and as an interior design college professor.  I am still working on the facade and realized when I stood back and looked at it, I had added a shadow to the awning, and now I had shadows coming from two directions.  I will try to make the correction and add it to the post. The building and the cafe next door need names too!

I heard once, and again in this class: “If the painting is not selling, add a dog.” I think this painting may need a dog-walker with several dogs. I think it is better to laugh at oneself, that try to be pompous about what you cannot do.

Facade.jpg

As always, I walked away having learned something new, met new people that love art and enjoyed the camaraderie of painting with new and old friends.

I will continue to listen to the rest of the book and hope it gets better, but reading several reviews I don’t think that will be the case. It makes me want to write a funnier book on a similar topic. One of the other reviewers wrote: “More of a self-congratulate memoir of past achievements than a book of more recent achievements. Disappointing … could have been much more.” 

It could have been written in a much more positive manner and encourage those of us over twenty to try different things.

Old in Art School

Make Your Own Vanilla

Vanilla is expensive and Imitation Vanilla is just that, and if you taste both they do NOT taste the same.  I never thought about making my own Vanilla till a group of cooks on Facebook of all places were talking about what kind of vanilla to use.

A good number of professional cooks and home cooks make their own.  It is just something I never thought of doing, but love the idea.  I am going to be making Vanilla this week.  I might make enough to give as gifts.  What a great idea!

Many people are often familiar with clear or imitation vanilla extract. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; the pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that’s it! Don’t be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure. Imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Here is how simple it is to make your own Vanilla:

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar
  • 7 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality)

Directions:

how-to-make-vanilla-extract

Step 1: SLICE

Slice each bean once long-ways and place in a bottle. (If it helps to cut them into smaller, tootsie roll-sized pieces so they fit in the bottle more easily, go for it).

how-to-use-vanilla-beans

Step 2: POUR

Pour one cup of vodka, rum or alcohol of your choice. Make sure vanilla beans are completely submerged.

vanilla-beans-in-vodka

Step 3: SHAKE

Shake once or twice a week.

Step 4: WAIT

Wait about 8 weeks
Presto, your alcohol has turned into delicious vanilla! Store it at room temp and out of direct sunlight, and you can enjoy this puppy til’ the last drop!

homemade-vanilla-extract-recipe

What makes homemade vanilla extract so much better than “store bought”? First, you have control over the quality and type of vanilla used in the extract. Using premium grade vanilla beans will provide significantly better flavor and aroma than commercially produced extracts. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract from different types of vanilla beans? Each different vanilla variety will create a unique flavor!

Do you prefer bold and smokey? If so, try Ugandan vanilla beans. Traditional, rich and creamy? Use Madagascar Vanilla Beans! Floral aroma with a unique cherry-chocolate flavor? Venture to the Tahitian vanilla beans. You can even blend various varieties together! The floral, fruity, cherry-like notes of the Tahitian variety blend wonderfully with the nutty-chocolate character of the Bourbon varieties.

After 8 weeks the vast majority of the extraction process is complete. At this point, the vanilla is ready to use and the vanilla beans can be removed. If the vanilla beans are left in the bottle, the flavor will continue to evolve just like a fine wine (just be sure the beans are always submerged in alcohol).

Whether you are a seasoned baker, procrastinating about making vanilla extract, or looking for the perfect holiday gift this year it is easy and will save you a lot of $$$$.

Making vanilla extract is a fun, easy way to bring a favorite recipe to the next level.

Make Your Own Vanilla

Tips from Culinary School

Found this article online by “my recipes” and thought the information was quite valuable.  I am always looking for ways to make things taste better in simple ways.

Good Stock Changes the Game:

This is probably something you’ve heard before, homemade stock is always going to be superior to the stuff you can buy in boxes, cans, or cubes at the grocery store. We use stock in almost everything. In classic French cuisine, so of course, There are all kinds of distinct schools that go about culinary training differently, but in French cooking, the sauces are everything. And the sauces are all built with great stock. Restaurants, of course, have the advantage of having many, many carcasses and scraps of mirepoix to put into huge vats of stock. It’s hard to get stock like that at home, without the industrial quantities that restaurants work with. But even just making quick stock in your Instant Pot will make your sauces and soups taste much, much better.

Watch the Bits at the Bottom of the Pan

When you’re searing meat or chicken on a pan, you’re, of course, watching the piece of meat so that it browns nicely and doesn’t burn. But it’s equally important to watch the browned bits at the bottom of the pan as they’re a good indicator of whether your pan is running too hot. Plus, those browned bits,  are incredibly dense in flavor. When you have them, you should always try to use them by degreasing and then deglazing the pan after you’re done cooking your meat. That just means pouring out any excess fat and then pouring wine, stock, or another liquid to help scrape up all the delicious bits. That’s an easy way to make a pan sauce, a great addition to your meal.

The Pan Cooks the Food, the Flame Doesn’t

You want to pay attention to how hot the surface of the pan is and how high your burner is turned up. Pans hold heat to varying degrees, and it’s important to keep that in mind when figuring out which one to use for what application. For very delicate things like fish, you often want to turn off the flame when the dish gets to a certain point of cooking, and the heat from the pan will continue to cook it. Pay more attention not just to how big the flame was under the pan, but how hot the pan was getting.

Weighing versus Measuring Cups

In applications where absolute precision isn’t necessary, eyeball amounts, and when precision was necessary, use kitchen scales. Bakers swear by using scales, and digital kitchen scales are a pretty cheap addition to the kitchen, and much better measuring by weight is than relying on measuring spoons and cups. Different flours and sugars weigh different amounts.

Reduce for Flavor, Thicken Later

When you’re making soup or stew, one of the steps is always to reduce a component. You reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, and on and on. Part of the point of reducing the liquid is to thicken it. But thickening really shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reducing down a liquid. You can always use a roux or a quick beurre manie to thicken a liquid later. The point of reducing is to build flavor. You reduce it to the point where you like the flavor, season it, and then thicken it.

Rest Your Meat, Then Reheat

Resting meat is important. When you don’t let it rest after you cook it, whether its steak or roast chicken, the juices spill out over your cutting board and the meat gets dry. But It’s better to let the piece of meat rest even to the point of getting colder than you’d like, and then just put it in a very hot oven for a minute or two to reheat. That lets the juices reincorporate into the meat, then reheats it without cooking it further.

Reheating and Cooling Things Properly Is Crucial

Lots of things in restaurants are made beforehand and reheated because making things a la minute for hundreds of people is a good way to become very overwhelmed. You can bring up most things to the temperature they were when you were cooking them without cooking them further. That means that you cooked, say, a piece of chicken until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. As long as you cool that chicken properly, you can reheat it up to that internal temperature again without it getting overcooked. You don’t want to do that too many times, because the meat will dry out, but you won’t ever overcook your meat by reheating it if you keep that in mind. Similarly, with cooling things down, the danger zone for bacteria is when meat is in between piping hot and refrigerator cold. To get things cold quickly, it’s way more effective to put them in a bowl over a bowl of ice water than throwing them right into the fridge.

Depend on your Senses, Not the Directions

The throughline between very famous chefs of haute cuisine and my grandmother is that they don’t rely on recipes by the letter, they rely on their senses. Pay more attention to how the meat looks and smells and feels to tell when its done (and yeah, a thermometer too!) than what a recipe estimates. After all, recipes are great guidelines, but everyone’s kitchen equipment and conditions are totally different. You cook things until they’re done, and determine that doneness by visual and other cues.

Size Matters

This sort of cheeky mantra but it’s true so choose the right pot, pan, or bowl for the job and it makes all the difference. Too big of a pan means your meat won’t cook properly. Too small of a bowl, and whisking will be a huge chore. It matters not just because of convenience, but because your results will be different if you don’t pay attention.

Hot Plates for Hot Food

The quickest way you can give your at-home meals a restaurant touch is remembering to heat your plates before putting food on them that are meant to be eaten hot. All it takes is sticking them in the oven for a couple minutes before plating your meal. It means the food won’t cool down as fast, and you can enjoy it longer. Try it!

You Can Use Almost Every Scrap

Whether it’s egg whites or garlic skins, restaurant kitchens are geniuses at repurposing what would be food waste in most home kitchens. For them, it’s an economic concern as much as an environmental one, but it’s a practice that’s useful to adapt at home. You can use many of the things that you might otherwise scrap to make your food even better.

Tips from Culinary School

History of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer

kitchenaid k5a gradient

 I found this article online and just found it interesting, as most of cooks own a stand mixer of some kind.  I have had several in my lifetime. One caught on fire, although it was not a KitchenAid, it was a very high-quality Kenwood with too much cookie dough. I replaced it with a 4.5 quart KitchenAid which I used for years.  I added a 7-quart pro KitchenAid this last year and love both the old and the new.  I do not keep either of mine on the counter, as I love a clear counter.  One (the old one) is in the pantry, and the other lifts hydraulically from a space beneath the counter. I often did wonder about their history. 

KitchenAid’s story

When you envision a well-equipped kitchen, there’s probably a gleaming KitchenAid stand mixer sitting on the counter. The complex machine, camouflaged in Deco architecture and cheerful color, is a sign that one’s made it in the sphere of adulting.

The KitchenAid mixer has maintained its place as a status symbol for a century, doing far more than modernizing countless kitchens. The very appliance that has shaped so many lives directly reflects modern American history.

The KitchenAid mixer didn’t just save time in the kitchen; it helped time move forward.

The story goes that Herbert Johnston, an engineer working for the Hobart Corporation, conceptualized the standing mixer after watching a baker mix dough and thinking there had to be a better way. Development started in 1914, and the first standing mixers went somewhere that desperately needed to industrialize its kitchens: the military.

A lot of the military and government for soldiers is a large part of how our food system developed. Military chefs needed to feed a lot of people and cooked in bulk all day long, and updating kitchens were the best solution. By 1917, all U.S. Navy ships were equipped with model H mixers.

Hobart then shifted gears to produce home models, and soon after the KitchenAid C-10 mixer was born. At the time, although a sizeable chunk of employed women were maids (More than half of employed women worked in “domestic service” according to the 1870 census, and that percentage continued to increase), the early 20th century saw a shift away from live-in servants, meaning many women were now cooking for their families for the first time.

It’s difficult to look back at how cooking used to be compared to what we can do now. At this time women were expected to have a several-course meal, always with a dessert. That was a lot of labor that went into cooking for your family. Preparing elaborate meals was also tied to status. How much you loved your family was dependent on how elaborate your meal was. Having the standalone mixer wasn’t just a minor convenience. It could really change a woman’s day as she was doing all these various things that we take for granted today.

However, practicality didn’t come cheap. You had to have the money in those very early years to have a standalone mixer, adding that in today’s prices, the C-10 exceeded $1,000.

The KitchenAid mixer didn’t take off immediately as the high price deterred retailers, but word of mouth started a sales momentum among the upper class.

It was very much ‘I have to have this because so-and-so has it.

kitchenaid standing early

In the early days, KitchenAid sales were conducted by an entirely female, door-to-door force, the first of its kind, and a precursor for entrepreneurship such as Tupperware and Avon representatives. Since KitchenAid targeted wealthy housewives, the best way to market them was by coming into a woman’s home, preferably when her husband was around.

There was this idea that only a man could understand the engineering aspect of this appliance and how it worked, even though she’s gonna be the person using it. In that way, KitchenAid was just as much about the housewife’s relationship with her husband. KitchenAid would sell it every Christmas. It was obviously the gift that was given to the housewife. In some ways, it seems demeaning, given today’s lens, but at that point in time, it was a status symbol.

After World War II ended and the era of mass consumerism dawned, broad industrialization of the kitchen emerged. Appliances indicated that a family had made it, and other companies developed their own standing mixers. Despite the more affordable competition, KitchenAid held its own for two reasons. First, the quality couldn’t compare. And KitchenAid’s secret weapon took that longevity even further.

What was smart about what KitchenAid did that the others didn’t do was cross-generation accessories. What that means is that if you bought a KitchenAid mixer in 1950 and kept it through the years, even though the appliance itself would evolve, you could still use the accessories with the mixer you had. It meant that women could pass down their KitchenAid mixers and extensions to their daughters.

Whatever their design was at the beginning, they either smartly or were lucky to discover a concept that they could have evolved without having to start over with everything again. As our food systems changed over time, they were smart enough not to change the model of the concept that they had. They didn’t try to talk down to their consumer or try to be trendy. And sticking with that traditional model is what’s made them so successful. That combination of quality and commitment helped KitchenAid hold its own against competitors, and it’s a huge part of what keeps them successful today.

KitchenAid’s fate may have turned out differently without behind-the-scenes feedback from housewives. These women weren’t just the target audience, but also developers who emphasized that standing mixers should be in the home. They often had a significant voice in food products and appliances because they were the ones that were using these things all the time, although they rarely received the credit. Even the appliance’s name came from a wife’s feedback: “I don’t care what you call it, but I know it’s the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had!”

KitchenAid also helped women break outside domestic restrictions by giving them careers in home economics. We sometimes act as if women’s labor in certain generations made pin money, but a lot of women were supporting their families, Voss says. The KitchenAid mixer was its own Trojan horse: an industrial-grade machine disguised in a pretty color. Women found all sorts of ways to make money and have careers using the concept that only a woman could understand such things.

And the opportunities that evolved out of door-to-door KitchenAid sales, such as Tupperware parties, allowed women to safely gather and discuss topics that expanded far beyond cooking. These meetings inspired women to run for positions of power, such as school board, and eventually political office.

They had to work within what they had at the time. They couldn’t go out and do certain things, but if you look back over women’s history, they found a way.

It was amazingly progressive but done in such a way that seemed safe. It wasn’t just about the mixer itself. It was about what it represented.

History of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer