Chocolate Caramel Cake

This is my go-to cake for special occasions, as every always loves it. But you do have to love chocolate ~ Caramel ~ English Toffee!  It is a simple recipe, but the add-ins make it rich and delicious.

Chocolate Cake with Caramel .jpg

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (King Arthur available at Amazon)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • One jar of the best caramel topping you can find, kept in the refrigerator to make it harder.
  • English Toffee
  • Big Malted Milk Balls

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.   Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring. Then line with 9″ round parchment paper and spray again.  (I buy the pre-cut rounds by Wilton – available at Walmart)
  • For the cake:
  • Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  • Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  • Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut each layer in half so you have four layers.
Putting it together:
  • Make the Chocolate Buttercream recipe shown below.  Pipe or spoon a ridge of the buttercream all around the outside of the first layer.
  • Fill the center with the now hardened caramel
  • Put on the second & third layer and repeat
  • Frost the cake with rest of the frosting (there always seems to be a bit too much)
  • Put the English Toffee in a ziplock bag and crush with your rolling pin or meat pounder.
  • Decorate how you like with the Malted Milk Balls

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  2. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
  5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

Serve with Champagne and have a wonderful time.

Chocolate Caramel Cake

Can You Go Back?

The other day, before I left Kitsap Kitchen and Bath, my last official appointment was with a lovely young couple that purchased the home my late husband and I built almost thirty years ago. Here is a drawing of the lovely 5,000 square foot home.  Drawing of Gordone.jpg

I wonder how other people feel when they go into a home that you designed, or built or bought and then sold and moved on.  It was lovely that they were such a nice young couple and loved the house.  It was hard, as over the years, the former owners had made significant changes to the interior and exterior that were very different from my initial vision.  The new owners were trying to repair all the things that were left unattended for several years.  My heart went out to them, as so many things need work.

Thirty years later my taste has certainly changed with color choices and was glad even back then, other than a pick tub & toilet in the master (now yucky) I had stayed with classic and beautiful choices.

Gordon front.jpg

This is the original exterior, but it is now light yellow with black trim, and the arches over the entry and the garage doors are now just a rectangle.  The architect was from California and good friend, but the arches and trim had to be repainted every year, as the V in the middle of the arch, opened the grain of the wood, so water got in the wood.  The lovely arch over the fireplace in the living room is gone and the antique Sheraton fireplace surround has disappeared that was above the master bedroom fireplace.  The trees are grown and beautiful!  There is a lot more landscaping that hides the front of the house a bit.

Gordon Living Room.jpg

This a photo from the living room looking into the dining room.  I had those two Captain’s chairs on the right for several years, but tired of them (still tired of them) and sold them ages ago. The columns are telling of the time it was designed and built, but classic lines are still lovely.  The new owners have had the floor refinished with exception of the entry where the last owner put black marble over the wood.  (yuck)  and the lighter color on the floor is much more up to date. I don’t have any photos of the kitchen, but it was a dream to work in, alone or with a party of people.

I would love to be the one redesigning their bathroom, but they did not contact me personally, so in the proper ethical and business since it is totally up to them.  But it does need to be updated, so I am glad they are taking it on.  I think it would be a very challenging, but overall fun project and would really add to the house.

How many of you have ventured back into a home you loved and what did you think about the changes?  Maybe as a design professional, it is harder for me to accept and love change?  How about you?

Can You Go Back?

Beyond Granite

20 Kitchen Countertop Alternatives

Stuck in a countertop rut? Explore your options beyond the typical granite and laminate, from unusual materials like glass and metal to more traditional choices like marble and wood.

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 8.54.31 AM.png1. Engineered Beauty

One of the most popular countertop surfaces today, engineered quartz is versatile and durable. Its nearly endless range of color options allows you to visually tie an open kitchen to the surrounding living spaces like designer

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2. Smorgasbord of Surfaces

And why stop at two surfaces? In this gorgeous space, perimeter countertops are Taj Mahal Quartzite, and the island combines 3-inch-thick walnut butcher’s block with 14-gauge stainless steel topped by Silver Waves marble.
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3. Butcher Block

For a warm, cottage kitchen look, opt for butcher-block-style wood countertops. Both decorative and functional, this hardworking surface is ideal for food prep properly sealed, wood countertops are sanitary even for chopping meat. Unlike other budget-friendly options, like laminate, wood is highly heat-resistant so you don’t have to worry about putting hot pots and pans on the surface. I would not suggest putting something directly from the oven to the counter, no matter what the surface.

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4. Wood on White

Dark-stained wood adds contrast and a country feel to this white country kitchen. Like natural granite, wood counters can vary widely in the uniformity and graining of their patterns. That variation is part of their appeal.
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5. Magnificent Marble

Counters of Carrara marble with a polished top function as beautifully as they look. While marble has a reputation for being high maintenance, it can age beautifully with a little care and nothing beats it for rolling out pastry dough. If you are an active cook or a little messy, this is not the surface for you.  Maybe an area for rolling out pastry only.

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6. Green Marble

A stunning twist on the traditional, the green marble finish in this renovated farmhouse kitchen extends to the deep apron sink, creating a continuous line that’s echoed on the insides of the window casings. The overall effect is crisp and fresh, giving the space modern punch that ties in with the home’s contemporary flair.

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7. Paint It

Giani stone paint is a sealant that completely and totally overhauls the look of any countertop. It can be used on anything from laminate to butcher’s block to primed and painted wood, and because it is a finish itself, it should only have to be redone if the surface is ever chipped or damaged.

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8. Cool Concrete

Concrete countertops are highly customizable, you can choose any stain color and texture. Concrete mixes well with many different materials, such as glass, tile, and marble to create a one-of-a-kind look. Aside from its eye-pleasing appearance, it is energy efficient when the temperature in your home rises, concrete captures the heat and releases it when the temperature cools down.

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9. The Eco Edge – Recycled Countertops

Countertops made of recycled glass are colorful, eco-friendly and durable.

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10. Clean and Streamlined

Developed specifically for countertops, Granicrete has the great modern look of concrete, but is seamless and is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation as being bacteria-proof and stain-proof. The waterfall edge here creates an especially sleek look, without the weight and cost of poured concrete.
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11. Engineered for Beauty

Granicrete is available in stone-like patterns like the one featured here, perfect in a more traditional kitchen. The surface never needs resealing as “real” concrete would.
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12. Soapstone

Say yes to Soapstone countertops as they offer a soft look and can look great in a sleek, modern space. Though pricier than some other countertop options, soapstone is environmentally friendly and durable, offering significant value. Unlike other natural stones, it doesn’t require yearly sealing but regular applications of mineral oil will help to disguise any surface scratches, add sheen and deepen the stone’s color over time.

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13. Square Deal

Tile countertops are a great choice if you want an inexpensive material that’s easy to maintain. Opt for handmade ceramics or even off-the-shelf squares from your local big-box store.

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14. Steely Resolve

Stainless steel countertops aren’t just for sleek modern spaces. Here it is used in a country-style kitchen, where the gleaming surface contrasts beautifully with exposed brick and the well-worn bottoms of the homeowners’ cookware. Over time, the counters may scratch and show wear but that’s part of their charm in a space like this and they are super durable.
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15. Glowing Glass

A solid glass countertop looks almost like ice, lending a cool, chic feeling to this energetic kitchen. Although it’s more expensive than other countertop materials, glass is growing in popularity for its stain resistance and sleek, dramatic style.

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16. Count on Copper

A custom copper countertop and backsplash add warmth and glamour to this bar area designed. Copper countertops are highly germ resistant but are prone to dents and scratches. Polish it weekly to maintain its shine, or allow it to develop a patina of a burnished brown-black with green flecks.
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17. Leather or Not

Leather-textured granite gives the sexy look of skin with all the durability of stone. The look is edgy and trendy without being in-your-face.
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18. Double Vision

Two countertops? Twice as nice! A center island topped with quartz by Cambria is a functional focal point in this kitchen, and the countertops around the room’s perimeter are solid black granite. That mix and those materials represent the most current countertop trends.
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19. Walnut

Wow With Walnut. Here rustic materials are used to create a coherent style throughout. Distressed wood cabinetry, a copper sink, and faucet, and the material on the counter is walnut with a live edge.

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20. Paper Works

As its name implies, Paperstone is made of compressed paper yet is surprisingly durable. This colorful kitchen uses it in an eco-friendly design.
So have fun designing your kitchen.  There are lots of fun options out there.  Pick wisely for your needs, but do something different.  It is no fun being the same as everyone else.
Beyond Granite

How To Cook Chicken Like a Pro 

This is an article from Hello Fresh about how to cook chicken.  I thought it had some good ideas, so am sharing it here. 

 

cooking chicken-guide-HelloFresh-spanish-one-pan-chorizo-chicken

Chicken is an extremely versatile and popular type of protein, and Americans consume about 92 pounds of it a year. But despite its popularity, people still struggle with basic cooking techniques. Whether you prefer boneless skinless breasts, bone-in skin-on parts, or even the whole bird, the challenge is the same. How do you cook it evenly, lock in flavor, and keep it juicy and moist? And if you’re a skin lover how do you get the skin perfectly crisp?

No two parts of the bird are the same, and I’m sure you’ve found yourself overwhelmed in the meat aisle at your grocery store wondering which part is best. But don’t panic! We’re breaking it down and dishing out all the tips and tricks to help you cook chicken like a pro.

Whole Chicken

cooking chicken-guide-HelloFresh-whole-chicken

Few dishes are as quintessentially comforting as a whole roasted chicken. The aroma alone screams Sunday supper! And while you only need a few simple ingredients like salt, pepper, and perhaps some fresh garlic and herbs, the trick to a perfectly roasted chicken is all in the technique. Additionally, buying and roasting a whole chicken is really affordable, and leftovers make a perfect second meal. Of course, you can default to a rotisserie chicken, but mastering the art of roasting a whole chicken is a lot easier than you may think.

Tip #1: Dry = Crispy

Start with a 4-5 pound broiling or frying chicken. Dry the chicken well (inside and out) with paper towels. For best results, open it from the package in the morning or even the night before and leave it on a rack in a roasting pan uncovered in the fridge.

Tip #2: Salt is essential

Season generously all over (inside and out) with salt and pepper. A good rule of thumb is about 1 Tablespoon salt for an average 4-5 pound bird, and I prefer a Kosher-style salt, like Diamond. Plus the salt acts as a brine and will keep the chicken very moist.

Tip #3: Season beyond salt

If you are seasoning it with more than salt and pepper, combine your spice mixture (I love the simplicity of freshly minced garlic and a mix of herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme) in a bowl, then rub all over. Again, don’t forget about the inside of the bird! Feel free to season in advance to boost flavor.

Tip#4: Don’t forget the cavity

To add some extra moisture and flavor, cut a lemon, onion, or even an apple in chunks and place in the cavity along with a sprig or two of herbs/bay leaves. As the chicken roasts, these aromatics will release moisture and flavor — just remember to remove before carving.

Tip #5: Truss and tuck

Truss (tie) the legs and tuck the wings. Not only does this make for a prettier presentation, but it also helps keep the breasts from drying out while cooking.

Tip #6To baste or not to baste?

There are some people who love to dot their chicken with butter or brush it with oil before cooking, and then baste while it’s roasting. However, if you like the skin crispy, I’d advise against this since brushing and basting tends to reduce the crispiness factor.  Every time you open the oven, the temperature drops, so it’s best to keep the chicken at an even temperature and let the oven do the work.

Tip #6: Slow and steady

I’m a fan of 350º F all the way unless you’re in a hurry. On average, you’ll want to cook your chicken about 15 -20 minutes per pound to keep the white meat moist and ensure the dark meat is cooked through.

Tip #7: Roasting pan, sheet pan, and more

A traditional roasting pan that you line with a rack is sufficient since it will keep the bird elevated and allow the bottom to crisp. However, a shallow sheet pan will also allow the sides to crisp up more. I’m also a fan of roasting the chicken in a large cast iron skillet, which retains heat very well.

Tip #8: Check for doneness

Don’t poke your chicken too often while it’s cooking. Instead, set your timer for the estimated time, then insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding the bone). If it registers 165º F, it’s good to go. If you don’t have a thermometer, insert a sharp knife into the thickest part of the thigh (also avoiding the bone), and if the juices run clear, the chicken is ready.

Tip #9: Be patient and let it rest

Don’t rush to carve that chicken right after you’ve taken it out of the oven. Not only is it too hot to handle, but letting it rest for about 15 minutes will allow the juices time to redistribute.

Chicken Breasts

cooking chicken-guide-HelloFresh-creamy-dill-chicken-breasts-green-beans-roasted-potatoes

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are perhaps one of the hardest working proteins around.  They’re high in protein, low in fat, and cook relatively quickly. But perhaps the best part about this cut of chicken is its versatility since chicken breasts can be marinated, grilled, pan seared, sautéed, roasted, sliced and diced for simple stir-fries, threaded onto kabobs, or even shallow fried as cutlets when stuffed or pounded.

Despite their popularity, chicken breasts can be challenging to cook — especially when there is a significant difference between the thick and thin part. And unfortunately, it’s easy for this cut to become tough and rubbery when overcooked. But with these basic tips, you’ll be well on your way to moist and delicious chicken breasts in no time.

Tip #1: Smaller is best

Look for smaller size breasts, if possible, 6-7 oz is best. If you end up with ones that are extra large (between 8-12 oz), cut them in half horizontally for more even cooking, pound them out for cutlets, or slice and dice ‘em into small chunks for stir-fries.

Tip #2: Pat dry

Always make sure you pat the chicken with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. If you’ve marinated chicken, make sure the marinade is shaken off and chicken is dry. Most marinades have salt so you can skip salting if you’re starting with a marinated chicken breast.

Tip #3: Don’t overcrowd

Start with a wide frying/sauté pan that helps keep splattering to a minimum (nonstick is okay but not essential). If you crowd the pan, the breasts won’t brown as nicely and leave enough room for turning. Consider if you’re going to be adding other ingredients like veggies or pasta.

Tip #3: Choose cooking fats wisely

Heat about two teaspoons of oil (regular olive oil is fine, but extra-virgin is not the best choice here due to its low smoke point). I like adding a knob (tablespoon) of butter at the end, which adds a nice flavor and color. In most cases, medium-high heat is best and will create a good sear. However, if it’s getting dark too quickly, you’ll want to adjust your heat slightly.

Tip #4: Leave it alone

If you want a nice sear, try not to move the chicken for about 5-7 minutes once in the pan. If the chicken is sticking, it’s probably not ready and won’t be golden brown.  Try to avoid over-flipping. Turn it once and don’t touch again for an additional 5-7 minutes. Again, the goal is golden brown color on each side.

Tip #5: Be patient and let it rest

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing or serving to allow for carry-over cooking and time for juices to redistribute. You’ll want to look for an internal temperature of 165°F, but if you don’t have a thermometer, pay attention to the following: Has the chicken shrunk while cooking? Is it somewhat firm to the touch? If you don’t have a thermometer, make a small cut into the thickest part and check that the juices run clear and flesh is no longer pink.

Bone-In Chicken Parts/Boneless Chicken Thighs

cooking chicken-guide-HelloFresh-korean-style-chicken-thighs

Chicken legs, thighs, and wings are known as dark meat. These parts are naturally fattier than chicken breast, but also get fat and flavor from the skin. Some people prefer the dark meat because it tends to be more flavorful, but it will take a little longer to cook.

Bone-in, skin-on pieces (even breasts) are best for longer braises, deep-frying, and roasting. They are great marinated and grilled, and certainly less expensive than boneless.

Boneless chicken thighs have a lot of flavor and are just as versatile as the breast. They’re perfect for dicing in stir-fries or quick tacos and take to marinades very well. They can be pan seared and then transferred to the oven to finish cooking, roasted the entire way through, grilled, or lightly breaded and shallow fried. They work well in dishes like chicken chili’s, pot pies, and braises. Just like all poultry, you’ll want to get the internal temp to 165ºF.

Tip #1: Pat dry

Just like the whole chicken and breast, you want to pat the dark meat pieces dry with paper towel. This helps to avoid splatter and increase crisp.

Tip #2: Render the fat

Melting and clarifying animal fat (aka rendering) helps to tenderize the connective tissues. Roasting at high heat or slow braising are the best techniques for this. It’s best to sear in a hot pan first to render excess fat and add flavor. Next, transfer to an oven or add sauce/wine/veggies to the pan and let simmer while chicken cooks.

Eat and enjoy!

How To Cook Chicken Like a Pro 

Worst Generation of Cooks in the Kitchen

I found this article interesting, as all three of my sons and my daughter-in-law love to cook and have made some wonderful meals.  My sons would make me breakfast in bed for my birthday and for Valentines Day, starting when they were eight or nine.  They are all excellent cooks and they definitely know what and where to put a butter knife.  We sat down and ate with candles and cloth napkins whenever we could at home.  I thought it was important that they have good manners and know the basics in the kitchen. I always wanted them to be comfortable with any and all dining situations!  And, you what!  It worked.

According to Tasting Table, Millennials Are the worst generation of cooks in the kitchen

Only 60 percent can confidently identify a butter knife
Millennials Don't Know How to Cook

They might be able to apply Snapchat filters better than you can, but if there’s one thing millennials can’t do, is find their way around the kitchen.

According to a study from Porch, between millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers, millennials rate themselves as the worst kitchen cooks of all, with only 5 percent of twenty- to thirtysomethings considering themselves “very good” at home cooking. They rate themselves last in being able to tackle (very) basic dishes like fried eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and lasagna. (Though, they do feel more confident than baby boomers at baking store-bought plop-and-drop cookie dough.)

And while many baby boomers aren’t so great at identifying a salad spinner, Thrillist notes it’s not so bad once you consider about 40 percent of millennials can’t even recognize a butter knife.

The one thing they are good at? According to the study, millennials are the top generation investing in meal delivery services and utilizing internet videos for cooking advice. Hey, at least they’re trying.

 

Worst Generation of Cooks in the Kitchen

How High Should You Hang Your Upper Kitchen Cabinets?

 Here is a relevant article from Houzz.  Don’t let industry norms box you in. Here are some reasons why you might want more space above your countertops
A client of mine recently raised a good question: “Do upper cabinets have to be installed the standard 18 inches off the countertop?” It got me thinking outside of the usual cabinetry box. Of course, there are lots of ways to install your upper cabinets, and if you’re willing to have an open mind, you might find that elevating them comes with unexpected benefits. Here are situations where you might want to hang your cabinets a little higher.
How High Should You Hang Your Upper Kitchen Cabinets?

Key Measurements to Help You Design Your Kitchen

Whether you are moving into an existing kitchen, remodeling the one you have or building a new one, understanding a few key building measurements and organizational guidelines can help your culinary life run more smoothly.

Kitchens provide storage for your food and give you room for prep and cleanup, and of course, provide a place where you can cook and bake. When it’s thoughtfully arranged, these functions operate logically, making working in your kitchen a better experience. Here’s how to get the ideal setup.

Key Measurements to Help You Design Your Kitchen

Always wash these fruits & veggies

In the latest report about pesticide residues, the Environmental Working Group says that 70% of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contain up to 230 different pesticides or their breakdown products.

The analysis, based on produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that strawberries and spinach contained the highest amounts of pesticide residues. One sample of strawberries, for example, tested positive for 20 different pesticides, and spinach contained nearly twice the pesticide residue by weight than any other fruit or vegetable.

The two types of produce topped the EWG ranking of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest concentrations of pesticides the so-called “Dirty Dozen.” After strawberries and spinach come nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. More than 98% of peaches, cherries, and apples contained at least one pesticide.

This year’s list nearly mirrors the one from last year, suggesting that little has changed in how these crops are grown. (The analysis applied only to produce that wasn’t grown organically.)

How dangerous is the exposure to the chemicals? Since federal laws in 1996 mandated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study and regulate pesticide use for its potential to harm human health, many toxic chemicals have been removed from crop growing. But studies continue to find potential effects of exposure to the pesticides still in use. A recent study, for instance, indicated a possible link between exposure to pesticides in produce and lower fertility.

More studies are needed to solidify the relationship between current pesticide exposures from produce and long-term health effects. In the meantime, researchers say that organic produce generally contains fewer pesticide residues, and people concerned about their exposure can also focus on fruits and vegetables that tend to contain fewer pesticides. Here is the EWG’s list of the fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticide residue, the so-called Clean 15:

Avocados

Sweet corn

Pineapples

Cabbage

Onions

Frozen sweet peas

Papayas

Asparagus

Mangoes

Eggplants

Honeydews

Kiwis

Cantaloupes

Cauliflower

Broccoli

Always wash these fruits & veggies

11 Mistakes to Avoid When Grilling Steak, According to Chefs

It’s never too early to start prepping for barbecue season—so go ahead and bookmark this.

Purists assert that a good-quality cut of steak is done ill justice at the hands of an overzealous grill. Contrast that to cheaper cuts like chuck roast, for example, which come to their prime slowly and forgivingly when slowly cooked. Cooking steak, therefore, is a paradoxically delicate matter for a powerfully primal affair. So it’s understandable that many diners and home cooks err on the side of overcooking it, especially if the quality of the meat might not be top shelf.

Regardless of what your preferences are—and we’re not knocking any of ‘em—here are eleven mistakes to avoid on your next steak night.

Choose the right piece of steak. The quality of your final product depends on your starting ingredients.

“Finding the best product you can get your hands on is always the hardest part of cooking a great steak”. “There’s really only three things in my opinion that make for a good grilled steak: Beef, salt, and fire.”

“We only work with USDA Prime beef, which is the highest grade of beef available and accounts for only 1.5% of the beef in the nation. Fat is flavor, so look for beef that looks plump, bright red and has the most marbling. Marbling is the intramuscular fat present in high-quality beef that gives it a ‘marbled’ appearance. Grain-fed or grain finished beef will have more marbling than a grass-fed beef.”

On aged steak:

If you’re lucky enough to be able to find a butcher that has dry-aged beef,I highly recommend trying anything aged from 15 to 30 days until you become acquainted with the flavor.”

Chef Joe Cervantez agrees, specifying that “steaks eat best at 23 to 28 days.” He’s executive chef at Brennan’s of Houston. “Most steaks from the grocery store are aged 14 days,” he says. If you’re up for trying your hand at aging and are lucky enough to have access to a cryovac, he recommends packing the meat in an airtight seal until it hits at least 23 days.

On cuts and thickness: 

Certain types of steaks best lend themselves to grilling. Skirt steak for a hot grill, whereas a NY strip steak or ribeye is best for a cast-iron pan over a burner. (For pan cooking,  a 3/4-inch to 1-inch steak is recommended because the thickness gives you the time to get a nice crust on the outside without overcooking the inside.

Don’t cook your steaks straight from the fridge. 

Prentiss recommends taking out your steak from the fridge about one hour before you’re going to cook it and setting it on a roasting rack. (This is also the best time to season it with salt, ideally medium grain sea salt, he says. More on that below.)

Season your steaks a couple of hours in advance and then let them come to room temperature before cooking. There’s an exception, however: If [the steak] on the thinner side, starting it cold will give a buffer from overcooking the center.

While chefs differ about the amount of room temp time before cooking, chef Dinesh Jayawardena recommends not squeezing the time below a half hour.

Don’t use the wrong kind of salt, and when in doubt, oversalt.

True sea salt is always the way to go when seasoning a steak,” Prentiss says. “We use Jacobsen’s Kosher Salt from Portland, Oregon. The grains are medium sized and have a pleasant minerality that lends itself perfectly to grilled beef. Any true fleur de sel or sel gris type sea salt will work well for good beef. Avoid table salt, iodized salt or small fine-grain sea salts as they have more weight to volume than larger grain salts and you can easily over season with them. Just think medium grain, true sea salt.”

Always overseason your steaks a bit. When you think it’s enough, always add a little more. A lot of salt and pepper always falls off during the cooking process and doesn’t always penetrate the meat.

Now is not the time to be shy about seasoning, as salt is the most important ingredient you could ever add to a steak. Do this before you let the steaks rest so the seasoning has time to work its way deep into the meat.”

Don’t season your steak too soon—yes, that’s a thing.

With larger steaks, it’s always a good idea to finish with some large flake or finishing salt once it’s sliced. If you do not have an hour to temper and season ahead of time, season immediately before grilling, anything shorter than 40 minutes will only pull moisture out of the steak and not let the outside get those beautiful grill marks and crust.

Add a bit of olive oil as well, which he says help gets better sear or griddle marks. If you do decide to add some fat, stick with olive oil, not butter. There is no real need for butter when cooking a steak because it already has plenty of fat and flavor in the meat itself.

Make sure it’s super dry before it hits the heat.

Make sure you pat down your meat. Dry meat forms the best crust.

Don’t use lighter foil or charcoal briquettes if you can avoid it.

Always avoid lighter fluid if possible, and while convenient, charcoal briquettes can add an unpleasant kerosene flavor to meat grilled meats and should be avoided. If a wood/natural lump charcoal fire is unavailable or too inconvenient, propane grills will ultimately yield a better steak than charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid.

The best way to go, however, is hardwood or hardwood lump charcoal. Natural solid fuels add the most flavor to steaks while complementing their natural flavors instead of overpowering them.

Don’t start without a super hot grill.

Be sure to let your charcoal fully catch and heat up before attempting to grill on it, about 20-30 minutes. Your fire should have a bed of red-hot coals, [with] high, even heat across the grill, and minimal flames and smoke.”

A hot cooking surface is extremely important to caramelize the outside of the steak and secure in the flavor. This method will give you a crispy on the outside, yet moist and tender on the inside steak.

Don’t forget the thermometer—even if you’re a pro.

One of the most important things to remember. Temping a steak by hand can be tricky. It takes a ton of practice and a ton of experience. You have to cook a steak a thousand times just to suck at it.

Don’t have a meat thermometer on hand? use metal cake testers. People always are looking for secrets on how to get the perfect steak doneness. We use metal cake testers. They’re the best tool you can use for this. Insert the metal tester into the steak, leave it for five seconds, then pull it out and touch it to your lips or inner wrist. The internal temp of the steak will tell you how done it is. If it is cold, your steak is rare, if it is just warm, medium rare, slightly hot, medium and etc. No more pushing on it to test it what happens when you hit a muscle knot? and now it is even easier. Plus, cake testers are less than a dollar and you can get them in baking sections or on Amazon.”

 Here are numbers to aim for: 

Rare: 120-130°F

Medium rare: 130-135°F

Medium: 140-145°F

Medium Well: 150-155°F

Well: 160-165°F

Don’t flip your steak more than once.

Keep away from overturning your steak. Let the Maillard reaction do its thing.” (That’s the fancy name for the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars, which gives browned and caramelized food its distinctive flavor.  Ideally, you should turn the steak once on each side (to get those crosshatch grill marks), and only flip it once.

Avoid individual steaks, if cooking for a crowd.

Don’t be afraid to go with one large steak like a 32 oz Ribeye or 1-kilo Porterhouse for a group as opposed to multiple individual steaks. One large steak is easier to manage and monitor on a grill than multiple smaller ones and armed with a good thermometer, any cook can nail a perfect medium-rare every time. Larger steaks like those work well for two to six people because once sliced, the steak will have some slices that are cooked to the preference of each guest. Because of the inherent internal variation of cooking times within one steak,  you can accommodate diners who prefer “medium rare” and “medium well” with just one piece of meat.

Don’t forget to let the steak rest.

Cooking the steak to ten degrees below your desired temp and then resting it allows for the collagen in the meat to thicken the juices as it cools slightly. This creates a way juicier steak than just cooking straight to temp.

Let it rest. This is crucial. Just because the steak is out of the pan doesn’t mean it stopped cooking. Keep it in a warm place you don’t want a cold steak and rest it for about as long as you cooked it.

Allowing the steak to rest for half the cooking time before serving so if your steak takes 10 minutes to cook, you’d let it rest for five.

If you’re not able to keep the steak warm while it rests, or you want to eat it quite hot,  return the steak to the grill after it’s rested and bring it up to the internal temperature of your preference before eating.

11 Mistakes to Avoid When Grilling Steak, According to Chefs

Costco Tips From Frequent Shoppers

Last year we talked to Robert Kyle, a manager at the Costco warehouse in Waltham, Massachusetts,  who gave us his best insider tips for shopping at Costco.

Afterward, even the most skeptical among us was convinced that a Costco membership just might be the most worthwhile deal in town. And we knew there must be even more tricks for getting the most out of the superstore. So we scoured the internet and found Costco frequent shoppers’ best tips too. Here’s what they said:

Store policies can vary from state to state; check with your local warehouse to make sure the policy is available.

1. TRACKING PRICES CAN SCORE YOU AN EXTRA DISCOUNT

Costco’s unparalleled return policy is already legend whether you made it home with rotten produce or just didn’t like something you bought in bulk, you can return the product for a full refund (and in the case of that rotten produce, you don’t even need to return it). Less well known is the company’s price-matching policy: if any product you’ve purchased within the last 30 days goes on sale, you can request a refund of the difference. You don’t even have to wait around in the store to do it there’s an online form, but note that when submitting the request online the difference will be calculated based on the webstore price instead of the warehouse price, and the webstore price will always be a little higher.

2. DON’T LEAVE YOUR PARTY TO CHANCE

The deli department makes a set amount of party trays on a given day. Once they’re sold out, they’re gone. Now, you could always DIY it, but if you’re determined to let Costco do the hard work, you can order a tray ahead of time to ensure one is waiting for you when you need it. To do it, just call your local warehouse and let them know what size tray you want and what day you plan to pick it up.

3. GET HALF OFF A ROTISSERIE CHICKEN

No, but literally. Love rotisserie chicken but only want the dark meat? (Or maybe you’re more of a white meat fiend?) Ask a meat department attendant and they will split a chicken into two or four pieces so you can take home whichever half or quarter you prefer.

4. A BETTER DEAL ON BAKED GOODS

Save on bakery items, such as freshly baked cookies and baguettes, by buying them by the case in the freezer section. The items are individually quick-frozen so you can bake them off as needed at home.

5. IF YOU HEAR A BELL, RUN

That means freshly cooked rotisserie chickens have just been put out. They go fast.

6. WATCH OUT FOR PRICE CODES AND ASTERISKS

Most veteran shoppers know this Costco secret, but for the newbies: watch out for an asterisk mark in the upper lefthand corner of the price cards. The symbol means that the product is final stock and won’t be re-shelved (unless it’s a seasonal item, in which case it won’t be back for another year), so if it’s a product you love, buy extra. And while you’re looking at those price cards, pay attention to the final digit in the price. Any item with a price ending in a variant of $.09 (i.e. $5.49, $349.79, $10.99, etc.) is marked at Costco’s original low price, which is usually a good deal. But if you see something with a price ending in $.97, $.00, or $.88, that means the product is marked at a final discount (and is thus the cheapest it’ll ever be).

7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS

Costco employees tend to be a helpful lot. One such employee on Reddit recommends asking for a “chub of beef” if you want a discount on ground meat. A chub of beef (yes, that’s actually what they’re called) is a package of lean ground beef that’s only 92-95% lean). (The ground beef that’s packaged and sold on the floor is 88% lean—it’s made up of the trimmings from portioning steaks and roasts plus this leaner meat.) Ask a department attendant for a 10-pound chub (or “tube”) of ground beef if you prefer something leaner than Costco’s standard offer. Prices will vary according to location, but this employee says his department sells the chubs at 15% less per pound than the usual ground beef.

8. CAN’T HANDLE ALL THAT MEAT? YOU DON’T HAVE TO

If the package of chops or chicken thighs are more than you need, again, rely on your trusty Costco meat department attendant and ask for a half tray. Most stores will split the package in half and send you home with a more manageable portion.

9. DON’T SLEEP ON GETTING A MEMBERSHIP

In that earlier article, Kyle illustrated at what point a Costco membership actually pays for itself. But, if you’re still not convinced, ask a member to buy you a Costco Cash Card the company’s version of a gift card, which non-members can use so you can experience the warehouse on your own time. Oh, and, remember what we said about that return policy? If you decide within a year of joining that Costco just isn’t for you, you can get a refund on that membership too.

Costco Tips From Frequent Shoppers