Category Archives: reviews

My New Thing

Well, it’s related to many of my old things. It’s food waste. Did you know that Americans on average throw out 40% of their food? Easy way to save $ eh? Just throw out less.

To that end, and because I believe that public libraries should be both paid for and used, I found a listing for a book which looked interesting:

The Kitchen Ecosystem – by Eugenia Bone.

I got a copy via inter-library loan to look at, so I wouldn’t just buy another book. (Also different than years past. I would have bought it with the least amount of provocation!)

And, because I am who I am, I was pleased to see on the title page two stamps: the top one reads: “Library of Congress, surplus duplicate” and the 2nd is the ownership stamp of the library where my library got it. Made me smile. I guess the publisher donated an extra copy to the LoC and it wound up in a small town’s library in rural New England. Must be the used bookseller in me, but I love books where you can trace their history!

Anyway, the book is sorted by ingredients, from Apples to Zucchini and each ingredient has a sort of flow chart.

  • Top level is the ingredient used fresh, and recipes listed which do that.
  • Preserve some: take whatever excess and put it aside in something.
  • Use the preserves.
  • Use the scraps.
  • Sometimes, there is a 5th level: Make more. Which I guess is what you do if the preserves and scraps still don’t use it all up!

Over the years, I have collected all sorts of left over cookbooks. Also have a small batch preserving book.  And of course other cook books.

That said? This is the only time I’ve ever seen anyone who, like me, talks about flowing ingredients from one dish to the next. It isn’t left overs or planned overs. It’s splitting the original ingredient into pieces which can be used in completely different recipes. Sometimes, I use all of something (especially with meat) in which case I will cook the bulk of it as plainly as possible so that it can be used for something entirely different down the road.

To that end? This week we had a potato “one pot” for dinner. I used a HM package of chopped onion, part of a HM package of chopped bell pepper, ditto celery leaves, 1/2 of an individual HM meat loaf, and about 2/3 of a commercial bag of thick cut hash browns.  Also used the end of a bar of cheddar.

I sauted the vegetables, crumbled the meat and added it. When that was hot, I turned off the heat, added the hash browns and some chunks of cheese. This mixture went into a Pyrex rectanglular pan and into a hot oven. I kept stirring it to brown the potatoes on all sides. When it was good and hot, I sprinkled some more cheese on top, grated this time, and broiled it until the cheese was light gold.

It was yummy, A one-pot meal, used what we had and essentially was free, or nearly so. The meatloaf, celery leaves, and bits and pieces of pepper would probably have been pitched. The cheese was an end I used up. The chopped onion was a whole onion, chopped because either I simply had too many for the pantry or it looked like it might go bad soon. The only “new” thing in the dish was the partial bag of potatoes. Everything else was the end of something bigger.

No recipe. No meal plan. I looked in the pantry, fridge and freezer and figured out what I needed to use up, and did. I do this or some variation of it almost every night. I use recipes for baked goods and preserving foods. I use other recipes usually as a guide, not instructions, if I use them at all.

There’s a quote in the book I might cross-stitch for my kitchen, I like it that much! Certainly it reflects my experience: “… while gizmos of cooking are very useful, I can tell you from experience that good cooking is not the result of stuff. It’s the result of practice.” (page 5)

No surprise  — I ordered the book! (And that’s a story, for another day.)

Annoyed!

It seems this has become my place to “rant” about the minor irritations. This time it’s about thecompanystore.com .

I like this duvet or quilt, quite a lot. Enough that I’d consider buying it, although I have absolutely no need for it.

2018-rbook-fashion-bedding-min

Except that particular pattern doesn’t seem to be available.

How do people doing marketing and web stores think this does anything other than    PISS OFF THE CUSTOMER???

Yes, it’s pretty. Yes, you have a lot of other items.  None of which I want. I might not spend any $ for this, either. But now of course I won’t, and you’ve wasted my time. I went through all the bedding, quilts, comforters, and duvets looking for this. Why would I look at anything I saw which was interesting from you again???

Come on people, THINK!!!

More About Self-Cleaning Cooking

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I have been working on this, it’s complicated!

There are these considerations:

  • Food storage: put away, recycled, or washed afterwards

There’s not much to be done about food storage. Food comes in whatever packaging or storage it does. You can repackage carrots say to share storage with parsnips, but that doesn’t change the requirement to take the food from storage and manipulate it for your recipe and return the unused portion or clean the storage item or deal with it somehow. Eliminating ingredients doesn’t change this requirement. Buying prefab possibly can, buying Bisquick instead of making pancake batter from scratch can reduce the packaging used: one box of Bisquick, instead of three: baking powder, salt, and flour.

  • Cooking tools used: washed afterwards

Eliminating or cutting down cooking tools is easier. You can decide to not use a peeler and use the knife you’ve already used to top/tail the carrots, as an example.

The easiest for me to eliminate is the tablespoon measure, it’s 3 teaspoons and I have no problem figuring that out. I sometimes look at the recipe and determine the measures required, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon. say.  Then I use, deliberately, only the smallest measure for all of them.

I will use one graduated cup measure throughout the recipe instead of using a cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure, etc. Or, I’ll use the 1/4C measure, like above. If it’s sane, I’ll measure the dry ingredients first, then the wet ones. (It’s easy to undo whatever item savings you may have doing this, because you need places to store the chopped onions, etc. for later!)

There’s a point at which this is totally counterproductive and I try and take that into consideration too!

  • Areas messed: washed afterwards

This isn’t as easy to do something about. Even when you reuse an area, a chopping board say, you still should clean it between uses. And, of course, it will need to be cleaned afterwards. You can limit the number of areas used by reusing them, but the quantity of cleaning required is harder, if not impossible, to reduce.

  • Serving tools/utensils used: washed afterwards

There are some obvious ideas, you can use dinner plates, etc. and serve everything together, instead of serving everything in separate dishes. Again, there are limits.


Trying to find ways to do this, I found this article at Bon Appetit. Here’s my comments about the article:

  • Her first idea is to use oven to table pots, instead of using pots & serving dishes.

My take is: Instead of serving items in the pot you cook it, how about plating food in the kitchen? Then the pot doesn’t need to be oven to table ready. If you have a big family or do lots of complicated cooking, this probably won’t work, but there’s two of us. I rarely use “serving” dishes. I sold all my platters because of this. I just don’t do that kind of cooking. When I take food to neighbors, etc. I use baskets, jars, etc. — no serving dishes.

  • Her second idea is to stop using multiple knives for everything, but to use one good knife instead.

My problem with this is that you increase the amount of dish washing mid-recipe, between cutting chicken and onions, say. That said? I set up a loaf pan with soapy water and put used utensils in it as I go. I try and wash them before the meal is served, to save the knives’ wood handles.

  • Number 3 is to get your timing down so as to make the best use of it.

Absolutely!

  • The fourth item on that list is an addition to 3, that is, clean whatever you can in the short down times between steps.

Again, I agree! You’d be surprised how many dishes you can wash while the micro is reheating your coffee for 1 minute!

  • Don’t use two items when one will do is her fifth idea.

I’ve worked at this for a while now. [I fixed the typo; I’m an editor, right?]

  • Item #6: Rinse and reuse prep tools rather than using new ones.

Also part of #5. In most cases, I’d probably WASH rather than just rinse. It depends on what I’d used it for, when. Rinsing the spoon you used to add the last of the spices to a cooked dish is fine. Only rinsing a spoon used for the initial mixing a dish with raw chicken? Nope.

  • Her last idea is to buy a scale and never use measuring spoons, etc. again.

That’s fine, if all your recipes have weight as well as volume measurements provided. But, many of my recipes don’t.  I’m not really interested in converting 1,000s of recipes so that I know a 1/2 tsp of salt weighs whatever it does. Might be interesting to do for some things. But even the salt won’t work, because you won’t eliminate anything: you need a container to put the salt into, to measure it. If you’re making a curry dish where all the spices are added individually, yeah, sure, use and reuse the same small bowl, but for a beef roast’s gravy?

Even if you use a scale instead of a volume measure, you still haven’t eliminated an item to wash, so like all of these suggestions, I’d take it “with a grain of salt.” [Couldn’t resist that!]


I’m not sure what conclusions this exercise gave me?

stack of dirty pots & pans

( Image isn’t mine, as usual, via images.google.com )

The four areas of mess making (food storage, cooking tools, cooking areas, and serving/eating tools)  was a moment of clarity I hadn’t had before. Unfortunately, the nature of acquiring/storing food, manipulating it for use, and serving it has only so many ways it can be simplified.

More thought required!

Wall of Shame

Another company we will no longer do business with: Swing A Way Can Openers. Why?

My Dad bought our first Swing A Way in the 1970s, as far as I know, it’s still working fine in the house where I grew up.

So, when DH and I got married in the 1980s, I bought one for us, the first one was in a box which disappeared in the move. I bought another, about 1985, it survived moving from  FL to New England and two households here, about 10 years or so, then it suddenly didn’t cut correctly. I kept thinking I just had to clean it, and did, and then I got tired of that, and got a new one in a fit of “self-care” about 5 years ago. Seeing a trend here?

Yep. They moved their operations to China a few years back, and the cheap cr*p can opener I bought last has just been replaced.

Note to marketers: Selling me cheap crap isn’t a sustainable business model. I remember your name and I WILL do the research to find whatever new names you adopt.

In the meantime? I will add Swing A Way’s name to the others on my “Do not buy” list.

J

An Adventure & Cooler Reviews

I was on my way up the stairs, decided I’d grab the sanding block. Got to the entry  — oh that spot just there– over my head, just.

Got wallboard dust in my eyes. Wound up doing an emergency visit to the eye doctor. This was annoying because I’ve been, in the weeks we’ve been working on the living room very diligent about standing to one side, not sanding things I’m looking up to, etc. Except this one time. The doc’s assistant says it’s that way for pros too, they see people who just don’t think about things like this, but if you do, it’s the one time you don’t take precautions. . . . So now I have safety glasses and I didn’t get much done yesterday on the home front; because I was gone!

I also paid the storage, tried to go to one of my fave thrift shops (in a basement, got flooded in our torrential rain the other night) and went to the two antique shops and a consignment shop. In front of the consignment shop was an old zinc wall ice box. If it had been < $100 I would have bought it, just to use as that California closet, eh? It wasn’t. I did call DH and rib him that I’d found our new fridge. (He wasn’t real amused.) It looked a bit like this, except no wood.

old wood ice box

 

No news on the refrigerator saga, except we tossed more produce on the compost heap last night when DH refreshed the ice. We have learned a few things: If you’re going to buy a styro cooler, buy one where the lid seats to the body, like this:

lifoam huskee cooler

We have one of this line (huskee), works best of the three lifoam chests we now own.

The one which works the least well has plastic clips which hold the lid down. Like this:

0415187a-eddf-472f-9794-9f213014c257_1.016f569ea019ba3d3ea7a50eb3409654

So, simpler is better. We have a thinner walled plain chest too. That isn’t quite as good as the “Huskee” like the first one shown, but works better than the one with the plastic clips.