November 22, 2011
Originally authored in 2009, the below advice is still relevant today. Our best wishes to you for a great holiday.
Thanksgiving always opens up with numerous calls and emails from folks fretting about their cookware and their cooking. Having the family table enlarged during the holidays is key stresser for many cooks. Will there be enough food to go around? Will this strange recipe that I cook only once every year work out? Will the turkey be done?
My advice is to relax. (And I remind myself of that when I start feeling the pressure grow). Start far enough ahead that you won’t have to have everything be done at exactly the same moment. A turkey benefits by resting for 30 minutes under a foil tent before carving. There’s no law that says that sweet potato casserole can’t be cooked three days ahead, stored in the fridge, and then warmed up on a holiday morning.
I always run a sink full of hot soapy water and try to wash up as I cook. That way it isn’t a mound of pans and pots to clean up at the conclusion of the meal. Thanksgiving, I loaded the food processor parts, pots and pans into the dishwasher and did a mid-morning load. Made the time after our meal much calmer.
We also set the table about two days before the holiday, which gave us plenty of time to repair the hole that mysteriously appeared on the good linen tablecloth between last Christmas and this Thanksgiving.
November 3, 2011
Welcome iPhone App–Find My Cookware and Bakeware
Hard to believe, but there are two generations of Americans in the world now who passed through school without any training in home economics or what used to be called “domestic living”. The past forty years have seen such courses go the same way that physical education did–abandoned in favor of more training to take those periodic tests of ability.
We get calls weekly from consumers who are confused and intimidated by their kitchens. They lack the confidence to try even simple recipes. They don’t know if the cookware and bakeware they own is up to the task. Given the chance to go buy cookware or bakeware, they are “at sea”.
With that background we started back in April of 2011 developing a program that will install on an iPhone and using a series of questions, help consumers find cookware and bakeware. Given the food desired to be cooked and the method used to prepare, the consumer is then prompted for any preferences they may have about their cookware and bakeware selection. The logic of the program then leads them to CMA members’s website where they can find out more and also find where to purchase the product best suited to their needs and desires.
Behind the logic went a a great deal of thought and preparation. CMA members entered product lines and scored them on what foods they were most suited to cook and their general price range.
The result is what we think of a simple and elegant application that will help reduce confusion for consumers.
More information is at: http://itunes.apple.com/tw/app/id476263479?mt=8
October 18, 2011
With frost–or at least the threat of frost–in the air, it’s cuisine-change time. Summers are full of light salads, cold entrees and grilled meats. Fall means more baked goods, hearty soups and dishes that warm the soul and satisfy one’s hunger.
A favorite of late around the CMA kitchen is a quick and easy Spaghetti Carbonera recipe which was recently featured in a Williams Sonoma catalog. Basically a few ounces of pancetta (we usually just use bacon) well-rendered (i.e. cooked until crisp–we drain off the fat), mixed with 1-3/4 cups of grate Peco-Romano or Parmesan cheese and three large eggs and then stirred quickly into a pound of piping hot pasta. Add a little of the pasta water to thin if necessary. Add some extra cheese if desired and serve with a green salad, a bit of Italian bread and you have a meal that is ready in less than a half hour.
Many cooks shy away from baking thinking it is messy and too time consuming. However when you see what a bag of store-bought cookies cost these days, a quick twenty minutes or so or preparation time for dessert and lunchbox cookies, plus the time to cook, seems like a better deal all the time. Cookies are perhaps one of the easiest baked goods to cook. There are hundreds of simple recipes which basically combine butter/margarine, sugar and flour and tasty add-ones to produce fresh and delicious food for the family.
Good food and good cooking to you this fall!
Delicious Spaghetti Carbonara Welcomes Fall
August 26, 2011
With bad weather predicted for the East Coast this weekend from Hurricane Irene, we are reminded
Irene's Projected Patch Up the Eastern Seaboard
that many people depend on electricity to cook. If your power is out for several days, here are some reminders and ideas about how food can be prepared:
- Modern gas ranges’ autoigniters won’t work. Keep a box of kitchen matches to light the burners on your gas cooktop and/or oven.
- Don’t cook using charcoal inside. Burning charcoal produces deadly carbon monoxide.
- A small generator won’t run an electric stove. Stoves require 220 volt circuits and it takes a good size generator to produce that voltage and amperage. An average sized generator should power an electric skillet or an electric griddles designed for indoor use.
- Do make use of your outdoor grill. Make sure you have plenty of propane before the storm comes.
- Keep the freezer door of your refrigerator closed. It will keep the cold in longer. However, most experts say that food that thaws should be immediately cooked or discarded. For many home freezers food can only be kept unthawed for about one to two days after the power goes out.
- Listen to radio broadcasts for warnings. If power is out at water treatment plants, it may be necessary to boil drinking water. Stock up on bottled water for drinking and cooking prior to the storm’s arrival.
- Stock up on canned goods. You can also consider using an alcohol warmer such as those made by Sterno to heat food directly in a can.
August 4, 2011
A consumer writes, worried that cooking a dish under their oven’s broiler, using a skillet, has released dangerous fumes into their home.
While we are confident that no poisons were emitted in this ten minute long exposure under the broiler, it is a cautionary tale.
It may look like cookware, but this cornbread pan is specially designed for oven use. Note the all metal, cast-iron construction
Unless the cookware has all metal construction, it should not be placed under a broiler. Many pieces of cookware with thermoset plastic handles can withstand 350 degree oven temperatures, but temperatures directly under a broiler are typically too high to safely expose anything other than metal to. The risk is not poisonous fumes but setting fire, or melting the handle itself.
There’s a reason that very few bakeware pieces are anything other than metal, and any handles or grips on bakeware are typically made using silicone which can handle very high temperatures without igniting or smoking.
The best advice is to use bakeware in the oven and cookware on top of the stove unless the cookware is solidly construction of ONLY metal.
July 12, 2011
In an era where consumers are being urged to eat local, forego fast foods, and be independent, it’s disheartening to the read of the case of Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan.
Her front yard was torn up for sewer repairs, and instead of reinstalling a lawn, she planted five raised beds with tomatoes, flowers, squash and other vegetables. The result: she has been charged with a misdemeanor violation of a city ordinance that says only “suitable” plant material is permitted in front of a house. The ordinance doesn’t spell out what “suitable” is. A jury trial is set for the end of July and, if guilty, she can be sentenced up to 93 days in jail.
The Offending Garden in Oak Park, Michigan
Oak Park is a working class neighborhood in Oakland County, Michigan which like many of its counterparts is facing severe financial issues. That the local government would expend resources to prosecute someone for growing their own food is the sort of gas the tea party would like to throw on a fire. Local media has already covered the story. From the picture above, it doesn’t look like much of a eyesore to us.
Social media may come to the rescue however. There’s a Facebook page that can be liked, and Oak Park officials have had their contact information published on a blog maintained by Ms. Bass.Stay tuned and we will see where this goes.
June 24, 2011
Word came this week that, tragically, a mother had placed her infant in a microwave oven. The child died of burns. A consumer wrote to say that microwaves should have motion sensors placed in them that would prevent their operation if something living was placed inside the cooking cavity. That is extremely unlikely to happen.
This baby isn't in danger in the kitchen yet!
It did get us to thinking about safety in the kitchen for parents. Here are some tips you can use to make sure your kitchen is a safer place, particularly if you have young children around.
- Always turn pan handles towards the rear of the stove. It makes it less likely a child will be able to reach a pan of hot food.
- Use the rear burners first, before using the front burners, if you have small children. Again, it will make it more difficult for them to reach the cookware.
- Try to keep toys out of the kitchen. It’s hard when the kitchen is an integral part of family life and often contiguous to the family room, but the kitchen should be primarily a work area and not a play area.
- Make sure all the plugs in the kitchen–and the rest of the house–are childproof. Modern plugs are made to be difficult to enter to resist children’s inserting a metal object, but the safest items is a plug which completely covers the socket.
- Be careful where you place hot bakeware when it comes out of the oven. Good smells are temptations for tottlers who may not realize a metal pan or cookie sheet is hot.
- Don’t allow children to play around or with kitchen appliances. A mixer is not a toy. Neither is a coffee maker, food processor or bean grinder. Knives should be stored in a block and well away from a little one’s reach.