The bananas on the trees are ripening quickly and we are awash in a plethora of fruit, so we’re scrambling to come up with great banana recipes. Ripened bananas in their skin, wrapped in saran wrap, will keep in the freezer for up to six months for use in breads, cakes and smoothies, but it’s more fun to try and keep up with the rapidly ripening crop (it’s a race we can’t possibly win). Tonight, not only did we dehydrate them for banana chips, but also made this killer Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, a simple recipe that yields a moist, tasty, chocolatey loaf. You can also add a little cinnamon, rum or vanilla if you like, but there really isn’t any reason to since it is delicious (and addictive…we can’t stop eating it) as is.
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.
One of the great ways to force yourself out of the rut of always cooking the same thing is to let your shopping dictate your menus. This technique accomplishes two things…it not only expands your horizons food-wise and adds variety to your meals, but it also saves you a lot of money…a win-win situation.
Here’s the way this works…it’s simple. First, you get your weekly flyer from the local supermarket and see what’s on sale. It doesn’t matter that you never cooked a picnic pork shoulder (or even heard of one)…if it’s on sale for 49 cents a pound, you’re buying it. The next thing you do is get on the internet (I know you know how to do that…you’re here, aren’t you?) and search for recipes for whatever is on sale that week. You’ll be amazed to find that no matter what you buy there are about a bazillion recipes for it, at least one of which I guarantee you’ll want to try. After a while, you’ll start seeing which sites and blogs have great recipes that suit your tastes…bookmark them and make them your go-to sites. Remember that pork shoulder you bought for 49 cents a pound…well, here you go…see, it really works!
One of the great joys of cooking is experimenting and trying something new…give it a shot. The worst thing that could happen is you’ll save a little money and add some much-needed diversity to your dining.
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.
Another unessential-but-cool-to have tool in the kitchen is the simple plastic squeeze bottle. It’s another one of those diner/restaurant tricks that makes life in the kitchen just a little simpler. Filled with your favorite type of oil, just a quick spritz in a hot pan and you’re ready to sauté. The great thing about it is, not only is it much neater than pouring straight from the container (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 and just refill your squeeze bottle when needed. This is also great for ketchup. You can buy the 114 oz. restaurant-size container of Heinz at Costco for about half of the cost per ounce of the standard size you find in the supermarket. Simpler, neater and way less expensive…what’s not to like?
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.
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, seasonedLodge 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!
Instead of using layers and layers of paper towels to absorb grease or water, take a few pages of newspaper and top that with one paper towel. Then put the bacon or whatever you want to degrease on top of the paper towel. The towel absorbs the grease (and keeps the whole deal sanitary) and the grease is then sucked down and absorbed by the underlying newspaper. This not only conserves on paper towels (newspapers are a lot cheaper!), but it’s also is a great way to repurpose old newspaper.