OXO Pop Up Vegetable (and Chicken Wing) Steamer

OXO Vegetable SteamerAlthough I did post a technique a while back for simply steaming a small quantity of vegetables, there are times when that method isn’t practical (like for prepping my Oven Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings). For these times, I highly recommend the Oxo Good Grips Pop-Up Steamer.

All you have to do is press on the handle and it pops up to make it safe and easy to insert into and remove from a steaming pot. One of the best feature is that you can unscrew the handle and it’s then perfect for steaming larger items like fish fillets (or huge batches of chicken wings!). It has foldable feet to keep the basket above the boiling water and it also expands to fit just about any pot. It’s a really cool kitchen tool with multiple uses…a practical (and inexpensive) addition to any kitchen!

And, if you really want to steam a huge batch of wings this simple, Asian-style 3 Tiered Aluminum steamer is great…it’s also perfect for steaming a couple of different vegetables (or a variety of seafood) all at the same time for a quick, healthy dinner.

Sausage, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza with a Sourdough Whole Wheat Crust

SMO PizzaJust wanted to post a shot of the pizza I made tonight…it tasted as good as it looks. This was, of course, made from scratch and here is the printable recipe for the crust.  One of the most important tricks to making a great pizza is using a pizza stone…you just can’t bake a great crust without it. A pizza stone has a greater thermal mass then either a glass or metal pan and therefore holds and distributes heat better. It’s also porous, so it absorbs moisture from the dough as it cooks, all of which contributes to an amazing, crisp, uniformly browned crust. Also, get yourself a pizza peel…they’re inexpensive and make putting the pizza in and, more importantly, taking the hot pizza out of the oven, a breeze.

Pizza stones are available just about everywhere, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes (and prices). They should be put in a cold oven, then preheated for at least 30 minutes before using. Because they are porous and absorb liquid, the stone should never be washed with soap…just a dry brush or some plain, warm water if needed. They are also ideal surfaces for baking bread and also for making crispy, homemade crackers.

t stone or piece of ceramic or earthenware used to evenly distribute oven heat to pizzas or other baked goods, more or less mimicking the effects of cooking a pizza in a masonry oven. Such bakeware has more thermal mass than metal or glass pans. The porous nature of the stone used also helps absorb moisture, resulting in a crisp crust.

Danish Dough Whisk…a very cool bread baking tool

This Danish Dough Whisk is an indispensable tool for mixing dough by hand prior to kneading. It’s long, thick wooden handle provides a great ergonomic grip, which gives you the leverage you knead for easily blending a stiff bread dough. Because of it’s funky shape, it’s much more practical and efficient then a wooden spoon for mixing heavy sticky doughs, and as an added benefit, it’s way easier to clean!

OXO Good Grips Food Scale…a must have tool for the kitchen

OXO food scale This is one of the kitchen tools that I can’t live without…the OXO Good Grips Food Scale. It has large, backlit, easy to read numbers and, with one click,  switches from metric to U.S. (avoirdupois) weight. When you press the zero button (tare weight) to set the scale back to zero, you can continue to add ingredients and then zero it out again, so all your mixing and measuring can be done in one bowl. One of the best features is that the display can be separated from the base (it’s attached by a long wire) so even if you weighing a huge bowl or plate, you can still easily see the readout. If you bake, you know how important weights and proportions are to achieve a great result…this is the  real deal!

A Really Great Knife at a Really Great Price

Now that I showed you the best tool to sharpen your knives, let me tell you about a really great knife that has the added benefit of being very inexpensive. I love my Henkel and Wüsthof knives, but for real value and exceptional quality, I recommend the Victoronix Fibrox 8″ Chef’s Knife. It has a stamped, high-carbon stainless steel blade and, although it doesn’t have quite the weight of a forged blade, it feels good in your hand, has nice balance and excellent edge retention. You can’t go wrong with this knife…it’s really a pleasure to use. And here is a great, FREE way to keep your knives sharp.

Knife Sharpening…The Best Tool for the Job

I love my knives and, as incongruous as it might sound, a sharp knife is a safe knife. When a knife is dull, more pressure  is needed when using it and that increases the chance that the knife will slip and do some damage…a sharp knife is not only much easier to control, but it really adds to the joy of food preparation.

Sharpening a knife using a sharpening stone is best left to professionals. It’s a great skill to learn, but it takes a lot of practice as it’s tough to get the proper angles. The Accusharp Knife and Tool Sharpener is an inexpensive, safe and easy to use tool that makes knife sharpening a pleasure. It has diamond honed Tungsten Carbide sharpening blades set at the proper angle so you can’t make a mistake, and in about 10 seconds, you have a nice, sharp edge.

The are a lot of myths and facts about knife sharpening, but if you use the right knife for the job and you keep it sharp, you’ll find food prep to be a pleasure.

No need to go crazy buying knifes. I recommend starting out with a good quality 8″ chef’s knife (the workhorse!), a 3″ paring knife, a 5 1/2″ boning knife, 5″ Tomato/Utility Knife, an 10″ serrated bread knife and a honing (sharpening) steel. Just make sure you store them properly (I love my magnetic knife holder) and you should be ready to tackle any kitchen cutting job with ease.

Cheaper and Neater Cooking Oil…another Really Cool Tool

Plastic Squeeze BottleCheaper and neater cooking oil…to get it, all you need is another of our unessential-but-cool-to have tools in the kitchen…the simple plastic squeeze bottle. It’s one of those diner/restaurant tricks that makes life in the kitchen just a little simpler. Just fill it with your favorite type of cooking oil, and with just a quick spritz in a hot pan you’re ready to sauté. The great thing about it is, not only is it much neater than pouring straight from the container (and you know you hate that oil slick that always forms on the bottom of the cabinet it’s stored in) but you can also buy a huge container of oil at a really inexpensive price from Amazon and just refill your squeeze bottle when needed (that’s the way we do it in the restaurant). This trick also is great for ketchup. You can buy the 112 oz. restaurant-size container of Heinz at Amazon for about half of the cost per ounce of the standard size you find in the supermarket. Squirt it on your hamburger and on your homemade Crispy Spicy Oven-Baked Garlic French Fries at home just like you’re in your favorite diner. It’s also great for balsamic vinegar…a spritz of that and a squeeze of olive oil and your salad is ready to go.  Simpler, neater and way less expensive…what’s not to like?



The Aerolatte – Another Really Cool Tool

Another one of my favorite unessential-but-cool to-have utensils, the Aerolatte,  makes a great cappuccino and really adds to the enjoyment of your morning coffee. It’s fast, inexpensive, easy to use and simple to clean. One of the cool things I do is add flavorings to the milk before I froth. This morning I sprinkled in some cinnamon and a little sugar before I frothed and it made an amazing topping for my French Roast coffee. Also, immediately after frothing, I put the mixture in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds (keep an eye on it because it will expand quickly) and then top my coffee with it for a nice warm, delicious first sip to start the morning. It also makes a great gift (that’s how I got it…thanks to my sister) for any coffee lover.

Cool Tool…The Cast Iron Bacon Press

You gotta CRUSH that bacon flat!

One of the great all time nonessential-but-cool-to-have kitchen tools is the cast iron bacon press. You use it to keep bacon from curling up as it cooks, and that makes it great for topping sandwiches (like killer BLTs, bacon cheeseburgers, grilled cheese and The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich). Used in conjunction with a heavy, seasoned Lodge 12″ Cast Iron Pan (an essential addition to any kitchen because of its excellent heat retention and diffusion properties), it’s also perfect for weighting down chops, burgers or steaks while pan-frying, which helps to keep more of the surface area of the meat in contact with the pan. This  browns them more evenly and helps develop complex flavors and aromas via the Maillard Reaction, all while forming a tasty caramelized crust. The cast iron bacon press is magic!