“CHARLES SHAW WINE USED TO BE GREAT — AND NOBODY DRANK IT. NOW, IT’S TERRIBLE AND IT’S SELLING LIKE GANGBUSTERS.”
“I TRIED TO PUT IT ALL BEHIND ME BUT I NEVER STOPPED THINKING ABOUT WINE.”
James Beard Award-nominated food writer Sarah DiGregorio knows her way around a slow cooker. And now, she’s written the book (literally) on how to use one—Adventures in Slow Cooking: 120 Slow-Cooker Recipes for People Who Love Food.
The recipes are spot-on; everything from ramen to eggplant parm and even a Cardamom-Molasses Apple Upside-Down Cake. It’s clear that DiGregorio has spent a lot of time with her slow cooker—she wrote our Guide to the Best Slow Cookers, after all and she has endless knowledge for slow-cooking newbies and veterans alike.
Her guide to “Getting the Most Out of Your Slow Cooker” is packed with advice on small ways you can step up your slow-cooking game. Here are some of the best tips.
“It’s helpful (and logical) to start with ingredients that can stand up to long cooking—flavors that can take a little mellowing and actually be improved by it. That can be as simple as a big dose of ginger and garlic or a spoonful of fennel seeds and red pepper flakes or a handful of pickled peppers. But keep in mind that as a general rule you can use a larger quantity of big-flavor ingredients than you normally would because their intensity will mellow.”
“I really wish you could just throw raw diced onion in the slow cooker, but you generally can’t. If you do, the onions will retain a weirdly crunchy texture while also giving off a ton of liquid that will swamp the dish. That’s why I nearly always sauté onion, garlic, and other aromatics before adding them to the cooker.”
“Always defrost and drain frozen foods before putting them in the slow cooker. This is for two reasons: First, frozen foods contain water, and defrosting and draining first prevents that water from diluting the dish. Second, and most important, frozen foods will prevent the temperature of the food from rising quickly enough as it cooks, and that’s a food safety issue.”
“On most cookers, the hottest spot is a thin strip all around the bottom of the side of the insert and, in particular, the side that is opposite (farthest from) the control panel. It might also be the two narrow curved sides on an oval slow cooker. Luckily, there’s an easy fix. When you’re cooking anything that might be at risk of burning against the side (like a frittata or a cake that’s baked directly in the insert), just put a folded strip of foil around the sides of the insert…You can do it only on one side or both, depending on your slow cooker’s temperament. The foil will act as insulation and prevent over-browning.
“You can use your slow cooker as a water bath for making custards or as a steam oven for cakes you just need bakeware that fits in the insert. Anything that’s oven-safe is fair game. Ramekins, either four or eight ounces, are extremely useful for custards and puddings, as are eight-ounce canning jars, and a baking dish or loaf pan is great for steamed cakes and cheesecakes. And the presentation is pretty, too.”
Excerpted from Adventures in Slow Cooking by Sarah DiGregorio.
Here is another interesting article from Kohler, on how to declutter your kitchen. I love a simple and clean countertop, so hide a lot in the pantry and in an appliance garage. Here are a few more ideas.
Looking for the secret to easier cleanup, clearing away clutter and getting your kitchen organized once and for all? Zero in on hard-working products that speed up your workflow and keep everything in its place to make kitchen time more enjoyable.
Cut Down On Counter Clutter
Shown: The Riverby under-mount kitchen sink with utility rack, soaking cup, colander and cutting board.
Adding simple storage to your space is a great way to keep your cleaning tools organized and within reach. Pare down the number of sponges, scrubbers, and brushes crowding your countertops and drawers by swapping them for tools with multiple uses. Our kitchen accessories feature a variety of simple, purposefully designed products, from dishwasher-safe caddies to a one-of-a-kind squeegee/brush combination. You could be enjoying a clutter-free kitchen in no time.
Accessorize your Kitchen Sink
Many of our kitchen sinks have added accessories like prep bowls, utensil trays, colanders and cutting boards to make cooking and cleaning faster and easier. Using integrated tools within your sink space transforms your standard sink into a fully usable workstation. So you’re not only containing your messes to one easy-to-clean area, but you’re also keeping bulky accessories from cluttering your countertops.
Go Hands-Free with Your Faucet
Upgrading to a faucet that accommodates the way you work around the kitchen can save time and effort. And when it comes to function and cleanliness, motion activated faucets just make sense. Touchless technology turns on with the wave of a hand, making messy tasks easier and keeping the kitchen more sanitary — especially during cold and flu season.
The Final Ingredient
Achieving a cleaner, more organized kitchen that you love is doable without a remodel. You just need the right recipe and the active ingredients to make it work.
Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, but one thing we don’t think about are cilantro stems. Crunchy yet tender and not at all stringy or woody, cilantro stems taste just like the leaves with a little extra zip. If you eat the stems you more than doubling the number of edible parts of the herb, getting way more bang for your buck, and cutting back on waste.
Whereas parsley stems are bitter and you really want to avoid using them, cilantro stems taste wonderful. Use them, do waste them. Use parsley stems in your stock, so you don’t waste them either.
Cilantro stems are easy prep-wise. The stems can be attached to roots when purchased, so they tend to come in contact with a bit more dirt and may need to be washed more thoroughly. You should always wash your herbs before using them, so this is not really adding anything. I throw mine in a small colander and run them under the faucet then dry them well.
Here are just a few ideas for using cilantro stems:
Puree them into a sauce: Blend cilantro stems and leaves with a few tablespoons of tahini, a spoonful of miso paste, lemon or lime juice, and lots of black pepper for an addicting sauce you’ll want to spoon on everything from fried eggs to kale salad.
Use them in a salad: Tear off a handful of cilantro leaves, then finely chop stems and toss with your salad greens. This will work with any lettuce, but I think pairs especially well with peppery arugula.
Blend into smoothies and juice: Cilantro is bright and citrusy, so it works well in fruit smoothies and juices without adding sweetness. Try it in a pineapple coconut smoothie or in ginger-carrot juice.
This wonderful article is from a King Arthur Flour Blog that I receive via email. I wanted to share all this wonderful information with you all.
The simplest pie crust includes just four ingredients: flour, salt, fat, and ice water. Each needs to work seamlessly with the rest to produce a top-notch crust. Let’s look at these key ingredients.
You can make pie crust with several types of flour. That said, the lower the flour’s protein level, the more tender the crust.
Shortening. Butter. Lard. Oil. Each of the three solid fats will yield reliably tender, flaky crusts, so long as you combine them with the flour using the correct technique. An oil crust will be more tender than flaky.
If you choose a solid fat, make sure it’s cold! Chunks of cold fat in pie crust dough are your ticket to a flaky crust.
We find that a combination of butter and shortening, like that in our Classic Double Pie Crust and Classic Single Pie Crust recipes, makes crust that’s easy to handle: flaky, tender, and full-flavored.
Salt is added to pie crust dough for one chief reason: flavor. While it does strengthen the flour’s gluten just a touch, making the dough easier to roll out, its basic role is heightening the flavor of the flour and fat, and thus the crust overall.
Does it matter if you use sea salt, kosher salt, or table salt? Only to your measuring spoon. The coarser the salt, the more space it takes up. All of the pie recipes on our King Arthur Flour site are written for plain table salt. If you use a coarser salt, you’ll want to add more than the recipe calls for, to taste. You’ll also want to dissolve coarse salt in some of the water from the recipe, to make sure it’s fully dispersed throughout the dough.
Water mixed with flour gives pie crust dough the structure it needs to hold together. The amount of water you use is critical; too much, and you’ve made a sticky mess. Too little, and the crust won’t hold together, or will crack around the edges as you roll.
You’ll notice that there’s usually very little water in pie crust. Your goal is to use just enough to create a flour/water matrix that’ll hold its shape, but not enough to potentially make the crust tough. In addition, using ice water helps the fat remain cold and solid; and the colder the fat when you put the pie into the oven, the greater the chance for flakiness.
You may have seen pie crust recipes calling for an egg, milk, buttermilk, vinegar, lemon juice, or sugar. All of these add-ins have their own minor effect on the dough.
Egg, milk, and buttermilk add protein, which enhances browning and tenderness. Egg also makes a sturdier crust, one with more body; bakers will often use an egg in pies they want to serve outside the pan.
We used to think that lemon juice or vinegar “tenderized” the gluten, encouraging it to remain un-elastic and making the dough easier to roll. As it turns out, the small amount of these acidic liquids added to pie crust dough doesn’t really do anything one way or the other — though there’s no harm in using either, if that’s what you’re used to.
Sugar enhances both flavor and browning when added to pie crust dough. When sprinkled atop the oven-ready pie, it offers a bit of crunch, as well as pretty shine.
You’ve got the recipe. You’ve chosen your ingredients. Now let’s put everything together and make a tender, flaky pie crust, a worthy vessel for your favorite filling. Below, see step-by-step directions for baking a basic pie crust using our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe.
Start with our Classic Double Pie Crust recipe. Add the shortening to the flour, using a pastry blender, fork, mixer, or your fingers to work everything together until the mixture is evenly crumbly.
Cut the butter into pats, and work it in. Leave some of the butter in larger, pea- or marble-sized pieces. This will create space between the layers of pastry, which translates to flakiness in the baked crust.
Stir in 4 tablespoons of the ice water. Then add additional ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough starts to become cohesive and form clumps.
Transfer the crumbly dough to a piece of parchment. Squeeze it into a ball. If it’s dry and chunks break off, spritz the dry parts with additional ice water.
Use the parchment to press the dough together until it’s cohesive. Fold the dough over on itself three or four times to bring it together. This will create layers, which translate into flakiness.
Divide the dough into two pieces; the bottom crust should be larger than the top. Flatten each piece into a disk, then roll like a wheel to smooth the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
Tonight for a quick dinner I mixed together the spices in the morning and pulled a pork tenderloin from the freezer. I buy them on sale, so it is a very inexpensive dinner. Trying to keep the carbs down a little, I served it over cauliflower rice which I made from a head of cauliflower I had in the refrigerator. I cooked it in a little ghee to give it a slight butter flavor.
The combination of spice and sauce made the entire meal delicious. It was fast and very easy to make. I grow my own herbs, so always have a fresh supply.
We usually prefer the flavor we get from grinding whole spices ourselves, but in this recipe, we found preground worked. Cutting the pork tenderloin into 1- to 1½-inch cubes produced more surface area, allowing the spice rub to quickly penetrate and season the meat. (Any smaller and the meat cooked too quickly)
In a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until just smoking. Add the meat in a single layer and cook without moving until deeply browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and browned all over, another 2 to 3 minutes.
Off the heat, pour the lemon juice-garlic mixture over the meat and toss to evenly coat, then transfer to a serving platter.
Sprinkle the oregano over the pork and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Serve with lemon wedges.
Do you toss vegetables, fruits, cheese, beer, and whatever else in those deep, ambiguous drawers at the bottom of your refrigerator. It is all great till you have a sticky mess on the bottom of the drawer. Finding this, might tell you it is time to clean your refrigerator once again. It might also say you are not using your crisper drawers in the best way. Knowing the difference of where and why to best store things, will give longer shelf life to your goodies.
Crisper drawers prolong the freshness of your produce by controlling the the humidity levels. Each drawer works independently with one being better suited for vegetables and the other for fruits. There will normally be a dial ranging from low to high. This opens and closes a small window in the drawer controlling the airflow. The low setting opens the window allowing air to flow through, creating a low-humidity atmosphere. The high setting closes the window thus reducing airflow to create a high-humidity atmosphere. If you don’t have controls, the default setting is normally high-humidity as there is no way to control the airflow. In some refrigerators, the drawers will be labeled as “fruits” and “vegetables”, based on the pre-set humidity level for each.
Certain fruits and vegetables release ethylene, a naturally occurring gas that promotes ripening. Being that the goal is to keep your produce fresh, this ethylene needs a way to escape to prevent premature ripening. That’s why the trick for speeding up the ripening process for bananas or avocados is to place them in a closed paper bag, or other closed container, trapping the ethylene gas inside.
Besides bananas and avocados, examples of other ethylene-releasing produce that you should store in your “low-humidity” drawer include: apples, apricots, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, figs, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes, peaches, pears, plantains, and plums. Potatoes and tomatoes fit in this category if for some reason you have them in the refrigerator. Because this list is comprised mostly of fruits, if your drawers are labeled, these produce items would intuitively belong in the fruit drawer.
Fruits and vegetables that are particularly sensitive to ethylene should be stored in the “high-humidity” drawer in order to keep the away from the produce items that release the gas. These might include asparagus, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplants, onions, peppers, raspberries, squash, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Ethylene-sensitive produce, be it a fruit or vegetable, should be stored in the drawer labeled “vegetables.”
This closed environment is great for produce that wilts easily or dries out quickly. The high humidity-drawer is a space that retains moisture well for leafy greens such as spinach, kale, various lettuce varieties, and Swiss chard. Herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, and dill tend to dry out quickly without moisture, they should be stored in this drawer. Wrapping your herbs in a damp paper towel and storing them in a zip-top plastic bag is a way to preserve their freshness.
“You see people in restaurants all the time who are sitting across the table from each other, and instead of staring at each other, they’re staring at their phones,” says Dwyer, a doctoral candidate in psychology. “We were really curious: Is it having an impact on people’s social interactions, how much they’re enjoying the time they’re spending with other people?”
The short answer, they found, is yes — and not for the better.
Phone use during a meal led to a modest but noticeable decrease in diners’ enjoyment, according to their research, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and will be presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s annual convention on Friday. Technology at the table caused people to feel more distracted and less socially engaged, leading to a drop in enjoyment equivalent to half a point on a seven-point scale, explains Dunn, a professor of psychology and the study’s senior author.
“[Phones] do make a difference,” Dunn says. “But it’s a small enough difference that you could easily overlook it and not even necessarily realize how phones are altering your experience in subtle ways during social interactions.”
The researchers asked 300 people to go out to dinner with friends or family, with the intention of studying how phone use affected the experience. But the researchers did not want people in the study to be aware of that goal.
To disguise the study’s intent, the researchers told half the group that they’d receive a study-related question by text at some point during the meal, so they should keep their devices on the table. The other half thought they’d answer the question on paper during the meal, and were told to put their phones away as part of a longer list of study directions.
Afterward, both groups answered questions about their enjoyment, phone use and overall dining experience. Their responses showed a clear dip in pleasure among the phone users — who, just by virtue of having their phones on the table, ended up using them for an average of 11% of the meal.
The effect appears to transcend dinnertime, too. In a second experiment, the researchers texted survey questions to more than 100 people five times a day for a week. Each time, people were asked about their emotional state and what they’d been doing in the last 15 minutes. If they had been on their phone while having a face-to-face interaction, they enjoyed the interaction less than people who had been face-to-face with another person without a phone, the researchers found.
Kicking a tech addiction can be tough; even after conducting the study, Dunn says she still finds herself tempted to respond to a text or two at the table. But the results emphasize how important it is to unplug around friends and family, Dwyer says.
“Phone use can be a bit of a habit. You’re used to pulling your phone out and looking for new notifications,” he says. “Have a rule that if you’re going to go out to dinner with some friends or family members, you’ll put your phone on silent and leave it off the table. Try to stick to these rules so you can form new habits.”
If you can resist the lure of your device, Dunn says, you may actually enhance your experience in a few ways.
“Phone use may be contagious. People are more likely to use their phones when others around them are also using their phones, so that suggests there may be this sort of domino effect,” she explains. “By putting your own phone away, you might be creating a positive domino effect.”