Monday, August 29, 2011

Protecting Your Kitchen Knives

Protecting the blade of your kitchen knives will prolong their life. You spend good money on them, so why not keep them around for as long as they will last. By protecting the blades, you sharpen them less and if you store them in a drawer, they don't cut you as you reach for them.

How do you store your knives? There are several ways they can be stored. A lot of knife sets come in a knife block - it's a block of wood that has individual slots for knives to go in, they are kept safe from other blades and there's no danger of anyone getting cut. There's also wall magnets - a very strong strip of magnet that's usually stuck to the back of your kitchen wall. You place your knives on this magnet, and they stay put till you need them. They could also be stored  in a drawer, but unless the blades are covered, there is a danger of getting cut when you reach for them, and the blades can get dull from banging around each other.

I don't have much counter space, so I can't have a knife block and a magnet wouldn't work for me because I'm short and can't reach the back of the wall. Let me show you how I protect my knives that are stored in a drawer.

Almost all good quality knives come with a protective cover. I keep those and use them to protect the blades and my hands. Some of my knives either didn't come with a cover or the cover broke from use, so I make my own and you can make some for you too.

Before I show you how to make a cover for your knives, I think it is important to know the different parts of your knife  - this will help with my explanation.

All you need is thin cardboard - cardstock will do or an empty cereal box. You'll also need some glue, double stick tape or even clear packing tape will do.

Make sure the cardboard is as wide as the blade on your knife and tall enough to fold twice around the end of the bolster, plus you add about a 1/2" for your seam. You will be placing the printed side of the cardboard up so when you are done, you will have an unprinted cover, not one with cereal print on it. Here's how I do it:

Place your knife so the end of the bolster is at a straight edge of your cardboard, if your edge is not straight, use a ruler and an exacto knife or razor to cut one. Place a tic mark at the top edge of your knife - you are covering just the blade, the tang and heel do not need protection.

Flip the knife over, placing another tic mark at the top edge and measure 1/2" from that and that is where you will cut.

Make even marks on the other side of the cardboard for each tic mark and using your ruler or edge of the table, create your folds for your sheath - I drew a line so you can see where I folded.

Using your ruler, a pen or something flat, crease all your folds.

Now take some glue or double stick tape and glue down the 1/2" seam. If you like, take a pen and you can identify which knife you just covered.

Now we are going to custom fit the cover to the knife.

This is what it looks like when you are done. Doesn't look that great, but we are going to fix that.

Place your knife on top of the cover and hold so you can make a tic mark where the bolster meets the handle.

Following the angle of the bolster, cut that corner off, you can curve it if yours has a curve (just eyeball it). By cutting that corner, the cover tends to fit better and there's less chance of it coming off. You're done!!

One more important thing about knives -

 I think it is critical to have a designated knife for cutting raw meats to prevent contamination, so I mark mine with a sharpie so everyone in the family knows (I also have a seperate cutting board for cutting meat and sponge for washing items used to cut raw meat).

So there you go, now all of your knives will always be sharp and ready to use by being protected with their own custom covers.

Some well used knives.

Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Potatoes, Pork and Pesto Recipe

**I am sorry - the pic for this post was accidentally deleted and cannot be retrieved**

Here is another recipe I came up with on the fly knowing the ingredients I had on hand.

First you make the pesto sauce:

1/3 c. nuts of choice (it's traditional to use pine nuts, I used pistachios)
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. water or chicken stock/broth (original recipe uses veggie broth)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped or grated
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese (original recipe uses nutritional yeast)
1 bunch basil
salt/pepper to taste (I didn't use any salt)

Put nuts and garlic in food processor and process till nuts are in small bits. Add the rest of the ingredients and process. Taste to see of you need salt. Place in storage container and set aside for recipe.

Here's what you need for the recipe:

1 lb. of potatoes (I used yellow finn from the Farmer's Market - very creamy)
olive oil
1 lb. ground pork
garlic cloves
1/2 c. pesto sauce (you could use store bought sauce)
parmesan cheese

I took 1 pound of scrubbed potatoes, cut in bite sized cubes. Place in a baking dish, add olive oil, salt/pepper and roast for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, slice half an onion and saute in pan with a little oil. Add 1 pound of ground pork and saute  with about 2 cloves of garlic, add a little salt and some pepper.

Leave on low and when the potatoes are done, include them in the pan, increasing the heat and cook together with the pork.

Add pesto sauce (store the rest in the frig for future use), mix until well incorporated. Add more parmesan cheese as desired.

Serve hot.

Happy cooking!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Easy Fried Noodle Dinner

I love rice noodles. They are so simple to cook up and can be used in a variety of dishes. I have come up with a great recipe that you can have for lunch or dinner and most of the ingredients is made up of what you have in the frig. What's nice about using packaged noodles is portion size. If you are watching your calories, this gives you the perfect amount, plus whenever I cook this, I like to put in a lot of veggies which ups the nutrition factor (if cooking for more than 1, use 1 package per person). This recipe is more of a method then a recipe - you use whatever you have. I seem to make a lot of my recipes with whatever I have on hand - I guess you can call that being resourceful.

Leftover meat or a couple of pieces of lunch meat
Veggies of choice
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. tumeric
Granulated garlic & onion
Salt & pepper
Chicken stock/broth
1 or 2 eggs (optional)

Open up your package of Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle Soup and throw out seasoning packet. Yes, I said throw it out - take a look at the sodium content on the back of the package, it's high - you will be adding your own flavor of choice to this dish.

Leave the rice noodles in the package, crush it up and place in a small pot of boiling water - boil for a couple of minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

The veggies I used are chard, squash and onions - a weird mix, but I like eating whatever I have. You use whatever you have or whatever you like to eat.

First, fry up the whatever takes the longest to cook. In my case, it was the onions, chopped chard stems, and squash.

When softened add your meat then the chard leaves.

Next, add your seasoning - I used curry and tumeric because I grabbed the Bangkok Curry flavor package (which is very good), but you can use any seasoning you like - chili powder, cumin, teriyaki (watch the salt if using bottled sauce), etc. Add some granulated garlic and onion and throw in some salt and pepper (you won't be using as much salt as that seasoning packet you just threw out).

Add in some chicken stock to get up some of the fried up goodness from your pan, (trust me, there will be fried goodness, your pan will be fairly dry) and incorporate your seasonings - don't add too much stock, you don't want soup here. Turn your heat to low.

In the meantime, boil some water in a small pan and boil your noodles for a couple of minutes - try to time it so when the noodles are done, you can just put it in the pan with the meat and veggies.

At this point, you would crack your eggs, if using (I chose no eggs this time), directly on top the meat and noodle mixture and stir everything together till eggs are cook. Serve hot.

If you wanted don't like rice noodles, you could use regular ramen noodles or pasta even - there is nothing hard and fast with my method of cooking.


Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this recipe or any of my other posts. Thanks!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Drying Herbs

We are coming to the end of summer, time to harvest all that great stuff you've been growing all season long. Are you growing herbs? Do you know how to dry them to use them at a later time? Whether you use them for cooking or making herbal products, here is an easy way to dry herbs.

Gather your herbs - make sure they are free of bugs and grass/weeds. Cut them with long stems so you have enough to wrap a rubber band around them. You could also do this with string or yarn, but a rubberband makes this a one handed operation.

Hold about a handful of herbs about 3 inches from the bottom and turn them stem side up. Cut the stems so they are even (makes for easier wrapping).

Take a big (not fat) rubber band and start wrapping around the stems like you would as if you were making a pony tail.

When you get to the end, you use that last wrap to hook your herb on to a nail or push pin on the wall in a cool, dark space.

If you want to hang your herbs on a hanger, wrap till it's almost tight and with the last wrap, you will basically wrap over the hanger and hook it onto the bottom of stems (which is now the top). You can get about 2 bunches of herbs on 1 plastic hanger depending on how bushy they are.

Leave in this cool, dark space for a minimum of  2 weeks. By hanging your herbs upside down, you are letting the essential oils go to it's head and dry there (kind of like standing on your head where you get the rush of blood going to your head). It is not necessary to place a bag over the herbs, nothing will fall (unless someone is rough with it).

After 2 weeks, you can remove the herbs from their stems and store for future use. This is a very easy way to dry your herbs and it really doesn't take much to do. You can do this technique with any herbs or flowers that you want to preserve. I've even taken a whole flower arrangement that was almost at the end of its life, in its container (with no water in it), wrapped it securely, turned it upside down and left it for 2 weeks. It turned out awesome. No pics unfortunately, this was years ago and it had to be thrown out because it was falling apart. But you see how easy it is to dry your herbs and flowers to make them last as long as you need them.

Here are some pics of herbs and flowers that I have dried:





Mother's Day Bouquet

Have fun drying!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thinking Outside of the Box

I am 4'7" and I sew a lot of bags and accessories. Because I am small, I have a hard time with making larger items, I can't envision large sizes and proportions (I use my husband often for sizing and he hates it when I put a bag around his body). I have sewn many, many bags and to date, I have sewn only 5 that were really large, the largest being 17" x 14".

Recently, I have been thinking that I need to expand my sewing and make bags that would be more suitable for the average woman. I've also been thinking that maybe my sewing on a smaller scale has been hindering my Etsy sales.

So, along those thoughts, I designed 2 large bags - the first is 15" x 12-1/2":

After making this one, I kept thinking that it needed something else, like some trim or beading, but couldn't figure what to do, so I left it alone. The lining is a bright cerulean blue and I made a really big, deep pocket - 8" x 10", that can hold lots of goodies. The bottom is squared at 3-1/2" which makes it very roomy.

This one I just finished this afternoon. I saw a picture in this catalog that had pockets on the outside and was made in way that the pockets were part of the design of the bag. I've seen this style before and I've always wanted to make my own version. This one measures 17" x 14":

I kind of mixed and matched the lining fabric and the outside pocket fabric for added interest. As you can see, I used 3 different color threads for topstitching on this bag. The divider topstitching in the center of the pocket is a peachy color to match the background of the umbrella fabric and the edges were topstitched in black, the straps were also topstitched in black. The top of the bag was topstitched in a green that matches the green lining inside. Can you tell I like color?

The inside pocket for this is also big and deep - 9-3/8" x 12-1/2". The bottom is squared at 4" wide which creates lots of room to carry all your stuff.

I really like how these patterns came out. I'm planning to make more of these styles with different kinds of pockets on the inside. Maybe thinking outside of the box will help me to see that bigger can be ok and I won't be so limited in my designs.

Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chili Chicken Recipe

Last night, I was contemplating what to make for dinner. I had a 1 pound package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs sitting on my counter. My husband, Jim, came walking into the kitchen and I told him I was trying to decide what to cook. Just then, I thought of making something using chili powder when following conversation took place.

He: "How about chili chicken?"
Me: "I was just thinking of that."

Isn't it cool how great minds think alike? I then proceeded with the following recipe off the top of my head. If you've been following me, by now, you know that I don't measure most of my ingredients, I just dump things in my pan so the measurements here are just guesstimates.

1/2 an onion (chopped)
Package of frozen veggies
2 garlic cloves
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into small pieces (any cut of chicken will do)
Palmful of chili powder (my palm is small)
1/2 a palmful of cumin
Sprinkle of garlic/onion powder (optional - I think it adds more flavor)
brown rice flour (can use cornstarch, arrowroot, or other flours)
chicken stock

Brown the onion with the veggies in your pan with olive oil. When soft, add the chicken and garlic and stir. After chicken is almost cooked (still see a little pink), add your seasonings and stir. Then add about 2 tablespoons or so of brown rice flour and some of the chicken stock - maybe 1/2 cup at a time. This is to thicken the sauce. If it is not thick as you like it, add more flour, stirring well to incorporate. If it is too thick, add a little more stock. Remember, that as it heats up, it will thicken. Serve warm on brown rice.

As Jim was getting seconds, I asked him how it came out.

"I'm getting seconds aren't I?"
"That means nothing to me, you could just be hungry."
"It was good, but I thought you were going to open that can of chili and cook it with the chicken."
"Me? Open a can of chili, when I can cook a great meal like this?"

We both had a great laugh.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Making Creamy Quinoa for Breakfast

“Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grain that comes from the Andes Mountains of South America not yet well known in North America. Quinoa's origins are truly ancient. It was one of the three staple foods, along with corn and potatoes, of the Inca civilization. Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain; an average of 16.2 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for rice, 9.9 percent for millet, and 14 percent for wheat. It is light, tasty, and easy to digest. It is not sticky or heavy like most other grains, and it has a delicious flavor all its own. Quinoa can be substituted for almost any grain in almost any recipe. It looks and tastes great on its own, or in any dish from soup to salad. Its lightness combined with its versatility in cold dishes like salads and desserts makes it an ideal source of good summertime nutrition - makes an excellent source of nourishment for infants and children.”  - taken from Quinoa Harvest

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For many years, I would have a piece of toast or 2 (depending on how hungry I was) and a cup of tea in the mornings - that was my staple breakfast. I can't eat a big breakfast as that weighs me down and I don't eat for the rest of the day. It became a challenge after becoming gluten free (gf) as the store bought breads were very pricey and I wasn't successful at making my own.

Several months ago, my hubby and I went on an detox that modified our diets a little bit. I have been cooking whole foods for many years, eating less processed foods, but this detox made us realize that our food choices could be better. I've seen a recipe for eating hot quinoa for breakfast. I've been eating quinoa as a starch and even made a salad with it, but to eat it hot, in the mornings would be weird - so I thought.

I decided to take a try at making quinoa for breakfast. At first, I didn't like it, it was a textural thing. I started to put more milk in it and tried to make it creamier and I think I got a pretty good recipe. It fills me up and gets me going in the mornings. I just can't eat too much or it'll carry me over lunch. It is so simple to make and 1 cup of dried quinoa makes a lot of creamy quinoa. Here's my recipe:

1 c. dried quinoa (I don't wash it, never did)
2-3 c. almond milk (any non dairy or low fat milk will do)
2 tb. sugar (I use Zulka - Mexican pure cane sugar)
Toasted, slivered almonds
You'll also need an immersion blender or regular a blender along with a sauce pan and a frying pan

First you toast your almonds - with your stove on medium and using a non stick frying pan, put in a handful or 2 of almonds in the pan (I wouldn't walk away, stay there till finished - it'll only take several minutes). Give your pan a few seconds to heat up then stir your almonds. Soon you will see some of the almonds start to get toasty, you'll hear a slight crackling sound - be careful, it could burn, don't take it too far. When it's as toasty brown as you'd like, pour onto a plate to cool. After cooling, store in a sealable container or baggie for future use. **Note: almonds and other nuts should be stored in the freezer, the oils in them could make them go bad fast.**

While your almonds are cooling, place your quinoa, sugar and milk into a sauce pan and turn your heat to  medium high. Let everything come to a simmering boil, then start to stir - just like making risotto. Stir for a few moments, then cover your pan and leave till all the milk has been absorbed by the quinoa - mine took approximately 30 minutes. **It was at this time that I dropped my sugar container on the floor and it made a mess - don't do what I did.**

Take your pan off the heat and pour about a 1/2 cup of your milk in with the cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Using your boat motor (immersion blender), process the quinoa (you are essentially breaking it up), move it all around the pan in an up and down motion until it is nice and thick and all the milk has been absorbed. If you don't have a boat motor, you can just put all the ingredients into a blender and process. Your quinoa will now have a creamy texture to it. You can eat it warm or place in a covered container to store in frig for future breakfasts. This not recommended as a cold cereal . . .  I heat mine up in the morning with a touch more milk for more creaminest and sprinkle on some toasted almonds.

It took me a little bit to get used to eating quinoa for breakfast, but now I love it and miss it when I run out. It's not too sweet, it satisfies my tummy, and keeps me going all morning.

All done

Happy eating!!

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this recipe or any of my other posts. Thanks!