Recipes and Kitchen Tips
I think it just short of hilarious that I’m giving any advice about the kitchen. Although I did take Home Ec in high school (age giveaway) and my mom did teach me a few things, the only culinary activity that I’ve really shown much interest in is decorating cakes. However, in this era of drive-through windows and frozen meals, there may be some folks who had no kitchen training at all and could use some help on the basics and/or some time savers. First some tricks and tips and food safety info. Then some quick dishes. Elsewhere on this website are some actual recipes.
Tricks and Tips
Knives. TV chefs always make food prep look so quick and easy. One secret is that they use high quality knives that are sharp. I store my knives in a convenient wooden knife block with the knives in the slots sharp side up. It looks odd at first, but you won’t be gradually sawing a groove in the wood and the blades stay sharp longer.
Plastic ice cube trays. I bought a set of stacking plastic ice cube trays. (Rubbermaid works the best.) I use them to make cubes from green vegetable juice, carrot juice, beet juice, ginger extract, chicken broth, lime juice, leftover wine, etc. Once frozen, I pop them out onto one of those thin flexible plastic cutting surfaces to use as a funnel. Bending that makes it easy to corral the cubes into a container or a freezer bag. I absolutely love these Better Homes and Gardens Flip-Tite canisters (BPA Free). They are super easy to use and they maximize freezer space.
Ginger extract. Ginger is a staple in Asian cuisine and is greatly valued as an herbal remedy formotion sickness (it may be even more effective than Dramamine®), nausea, and indigestion. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory—for example you may feel the difference in your joints. Make your own ginger extract to spice up teas, smoothies, salad dressings and recipes. It’s easy. For under $2 you can buy a whole root from the grocery store produce department. Wash it off and cut it into chunks about 1” in length and put them into the blender. Fill or at least cover with water. (Filtered is best.) Blend until there are no lumps and then strain. Freeze in small quantities. If making ice cubes from the extract it consider measuring teaspoon amounts in one tray and tablespoon amounts into another to give you premeasured options.
Measuring spoons. I buy sets of graduated measuring spoons and cups wherever I see them at a bargain price (e.g. garage sales). I divide up the sets and keep the appropriate measure in food and supplement containers. For example, I leave the same Tablespoon in the lecithin granules container and save time looking for one, washing it and putting it away…that saves only seconds, but those add up.
Grocery list. My son, Andy, laughs when he sees my grocery list. (He thinks I’m just a little too fond of Excel® spreadsheets in general.) But, if you have access to a copier, you can use this same idea starting with blank paper. I keep a standard list of all the items I typically buy. It is organized by store section and in the same order as I shop. I just make a check by anything I need that week. I highlight names that are part of the Environmental Working Group dirty dozen that the group says are the most important to buy as organic. Naturally the list has blank spaces in each department to add a special item called for by a recipe or whim.
Handy recipe source. On Allrecipes.com, you can search for a recipe for any ingredient you want to use up and change the number of portions. The site will do the math for you. (That is important to me since there are only 2 of us and most recipes are designed for families.) You can then select the type size and page size to print out the altered recipe. I choose 4″ x 6″ because that is the size of my recipe box.
Planning. I got tired of staring blankly into the fridge at 6 PM wondering to make for dinner out of whatever was in there. I am back to making a weekly plan. (Egad, as I write that it sounds so obvious and basic.) In the morning I check my notes about whatever takes a head start like thawing or marinating.
Safety of Food and Prep
Food Safety Guidelines
DO NOT wash your raw chicken
Food Alert (register to be notified of recalls)
Is this food expired or safe?
Kitchen fire—put it out safely because the wrong way can spell disaster
Food fast: (In contrast to drive through fast food, this is real food in a hurry. Also check out the salad recipe in this area of the website.)
Brown Rice. In making a meal you may need to start with the rice because, although it is extremely simple to prepare, it does have a longer cooking time and ideally we want all parts of the meal end up ready to eat at the same time. Follow package instructions or these online directions. I use a rice steamer appliance. (It was a present from Bill—he loves gifts with cords.) I make a big batch then freeze meal size portions from the leftovers.
Chicken Breast. Thaw in refrigerator or more quickly in a plastic bag suspended in cool water. Preheat the oven to 375°. Put chicken between layers of waxed paper and pound it (with food hammer or your fist) until the meat is all the same thickness and will cook evenly. If you want the juice to stay inside, don’t salt or season before baking. Lightly coat with a little oil (I use macadamia which is healthy and delicious). Place the breast elevated on a little grate or rack in a baking pan (anything that keeps it from boiling in the juices that come out. I saw a rack like the photo below at the dollar store. For easy cleanup, line the pan with foil) and roast for 25-30 minutes depending on size. It should be quite juicy and tender. Season with a rub, a sauce or just salt and pepper.
Broccoli. Wash the broccoli. Drop a steamer basket like the one pictured below (I get them at garage sales or the grocery store) into a sauce pan that has a lid. Fill pan with an inch or so of water but do not allow it to come above the bottom of the basket. (We want to steam the vegetable, not boil the nutrients out of it.) When the chicken has only a few minutes to go, put the broccoli in the steamer basket, cover and bring the water to a boil. Turn off the burner and let it sit covered until the broccoli is the desired crispy-tender but, still green. Season as you like with butter, salt and pepper or even salad dressing. (I like a little butter and apple cider vinegar on mine.)
Steamed Spinach. This is the fastest vegetable I can imagine. I buy the prewashed organic baby spinach. Prepare as broccoli above except that you turn off the heat the minute you put the spinach in. It only takes seconds for the spinach to go limp and it is ready to serve.
Copyright 2014 by Martie Whittekin, CCN