Wild Card Wednesday: (How to) Sharpen your knives!

One of the first articles I posted was about one of THE most important kitchen tools…a good quality chef’s knife.  A brand new knife is amazing but, what happens when it starts to dull?  Not so amazing anymore.  Plus, a dull knife is actually more dangerous than a sharp knife because you end up having to use more pressure to cut through something, which inevitably sends food flying off the board and the knife chopping your fingers instead.

The good news is, quality knives are meant to be sharpened and it’s pretty easy to maintain a sharp edge.  And now-a-days, there are some very affordable products that do most of the work for you, quickly and painlessly.

Here’s what I recommend for your average home cook:

Manual (or hand-held) Sharpeners

There are 2 main types of manual sharpeners:

  • Those with slots containing various levels of (knife safe) abrasives inside.  The abrasive material removes small pieces of metal as you slide your knife through, reshaping the sharp edge.  The Chef’s Choice sharpener (seen below), uses diamond abrasives and is very versatile.  It can be used on European/American/Asian Style kitchen, sports or pocket knives.

Chef's Choice 4643 ProntoPro Angle Select Diamond Hone 3 Stage Manual Knife Sharpener

  • The second type of manual sharpener is like the MinoSharp version shown below.  It uses ceramic wheels and water to do the job.  It has 2 different levels of ceramic abrasives (in wheel form) to remove the excess metal. This goes one step further than your average manual sharpener and rinses the pieces of metal away with the water as you sharpen. I use one very similar to this one and love it.

MinoSharp 440/BR Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus, Black/Red

Electric Sharpeners

Electric sharpeners do the same thing as the manual ones. The difference is they are motorized so you hold the knife and let the abrasives do the work.  They work well, for the most part, but depending on the shape of your knife (namely, those with a large bolster), your knife may not fit properly and the knife can become unevenly sharpened.  Also, they cost quite a bit more than the manual versions.  If electric is what you want, Cooks Illustrated (the authority on all things tested and perfected) recommends the Chef’s Choice Trizor Edge shown below.

 

Sharpening Steel (a.k.a, the steel rod found in knife sets): This is actually NOT a sharpener. It’s purpose is to hone your knife.  WTF does that mean?  Think of if as a knife file.  It doesn’t remove metal from your knife (like a sharpener does).  It reshapes a dull edge, creating a smoother, straighter, sharper edge.  From my experience, this is mostly useful in a commercial kitchen or if you are using your knife to chop a lot, for a long period of time.  I personally don’t use mine.  I go straight to my sharpener when my knife dulls.

Side note: Some sharpeners are designed specifically for one type of knife over another (i.e. Asian vs. German vs. American) so just make sure you read the details before purchasing.

Lucky for me, the lovely folks at Cooks Illustrated, wrote THIS in-depth article about the different ways to sharpen and maintain your knives.  If you want to read more about it and see a video of how to hone your knife, check it out.

If properly maintained, good knives will last forever. “A sharp knife is a chef’s best friend”ancient proverb

Click HERE to buy the manual Chef’s Choice Pronto Pro Diamond Knife Sharpener

Click HERE to buy the manual MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus

Click HERE to buy the electric Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edge Sharpener

 

Cooking Tip Tuesday: Oven roasted bacon

Cooking bacon for more than 2 people can be a pain in the tush.  No one wants to stand over bubbling hot grease, flipping bacon for 20 minutes, to have just enough slices for even a family of 5.  And what if you’re making bacon for a crowd? Then you’re talking multiple skillets and/or 45 minutes of a bacon grease facial.

Fuhgeddaboutit!

YOUR OVEN is a place where bacon can spread it’s wings and sizzle like never before.  I first experienced the joy of oven roasted bacon while working in a prep kitchen at a local catering company.  They’d cook FULL sheet pan, upon sheet pan of bacon in like 20 minutes flat. And now, if I’m making any more than 3 or 4 slices at once, in the oven it goes.

Here’s how:

Preheat your oven to 400 degree F. Line it with parchment (or not), lay your bacon strips on the sheet pan, making sure to leave about an inch between each piece (very important not to overcrowd or it won’t get crispy). Let your beautiful strips cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on how many strips you’re cooking and how thick your bacon is.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  Eat.

Don’t-Get-Too-Wild Card Wednesday: Strawberry Vodka

When I imbibe, I prefer to keep it vodka.  I mean…simple.  Yes, I sound like a total boozer but I promise, I’m not.  Seen that one too many times.  I’m a vodka girl because sadly, most wine gives me a headache and while I really enjoy beer, I don’t enjoy beer bloat, burps and the overall heaviness I get from drinking multiple beers.  So, when only an adult beverage will do, I go for vodka with club soda and real fruit flavor like a lime or lemon wedge (I’m not a fan of the “naturally fruit flavored” varieties).

This particular experiment was inspired by an adventure with my besties.  One of my most favorite humans was visiting, we had a babysitter on duty, so out we headed to a local bar here in San Diego. Upon arrival, I ordered a fancy drink that featured vodka infused with fresh strawberries.  Oh yum.

I definitely enjoyed my fancy mixed drink, but after 1, I was done. I asked the bartender if I could just have the strawberry vodka mixed with soda water and he very graciously obliged. I immediately thought to myself, “Self, when you are sober, make this at home”.  And so, 6 months later, it’s berrypalooza and thus, Strawberry Vodka was born.

Please be forewarned.  You have to plan ahead and be patient.  Brewing time is at least 3 days.  My strawberries swam for 7 days.  But, it’s TOTALLY worth the wait.  See above pic.

Also, PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.  It is vodka.

Wanna make some too?  Here’s how:

Step 1. Pour a 1 L bottle of vodka* into a 1 L glass jar or container that can be tightly sealed.

*Generally, lower quality vodka is recommended because you don’t need any special nuances (like floral notes, hints of fruit, etc.).  You want the strawberries to be the star of the show.  I opted for a slightly better than bottom of the barrel (no pun intended) because lets face it, low quality liquor=high quality headache.

2. Slice 1/2 a pound of strawberries, add them to the vodka and seal lid tightly.

3. Allow to infuse for 3-7 days.  The longer the better.  Give her a gentle shake once a day.

4. When ready to drink, strain over a fine mesh strainer.  Discard strawberries. Prepare glass (optional :))

img_6240

5. Pour your beautiful Strawberry Vodka back in the container (or another tightly seal-able glass container).

6. Enjoy over ice with club soda, add to your mimosa or try making a strawberry mule.  Oooo, you could even line the rim with sugar.  The possibilities are endless!

Visit Skinnytaste.com for my guest post!

 

(photo credit: Sarah Fennel)

Good morning. I’ve got HUGE news! My recipe, Enchilada Chicken Roll-Ups (see above), is featured on the Skinnytaste blog TODAY! CHECK IT OUT!

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve had the absolute honor and privilege of working with Skinnytaste author Gina Homolka (and advising dietitian Heather K. Jones, RD) for the past few years.  I help with nutrition analysis, recipe proof reading and meal planning for the cookbooks and do some recipe development for the Skinnytaste blog.  Crazy, right?!?!

I absolutely love Gina and her blog.  For those who aren’t familiar, her motto is, “Delicious healthy recipes from my family to yours”.  And boy is she right.  Her recipes are healthy and delicious.  They appeal to kids and adults alike.  She has a magic touch when it comes to packing in flavor and nutrition without making you feel deprived or like you’re eating “diet” food.

Her recipes work because they are easy to follow, use easy-to-find ingredients and promote portion control (though if you need a higher calorie meal, you can double the recipes ;)).  She incorporates her culture, tradition and travels into her recipes all while keeping things familiar and family friendly.  Oh, and her photographs will leave you wiping drool off your face.

Don’t just take it from me.  Both cookbooks are NY Times Best Sellers and her most recent book, Fast and Slow, was nominated for a James Beard Award!

So add her to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest feeds, email, etc. to get her latest recipes and updates.  I promise, you’ll love it.  And you may just see something that I helped create.

If you don’t have the Skinnytaste Cookbooks yet, you can get them on Amazon:

  • The original Skinnytaste Cookbook HERE.
  • Skinnytaste Fast and Slow HERE

She also has a Meal-Planner which you can get HERE

Cooking Tip Tuesday: How to properly measure flour

Do you often have a hard time getting your baked goods just right? Being a successful baker takes a lot of practice, plenty of mistakes and an understanding of the science behind it. There are a lot of chemical reactions that have to take place so it’s really important that you be precise (and follow directions).  That’s not to say you can’t be creative.  You just have to be precisely creative ;).

One of the most basic (non-scientific) things I’ve learned along my baking journey is how to properly measure flour.  Up until a few years ago, I would just scoop it with my measuring cup and dump it into the bowl. The problem with this “scoop and dump” method is, you are using the force of your scoop to pack the measuring cup full, thus packing in more flour than necessary. In some recipes, it may not make much of a difference but in many recipes such as cupcakes, cakes or brownies, you will negatively affect the texture of your baked goods. Ohhhh snap!

Never fear.  True Eats is here!

Here ⇓ is proper way to measure 1 cup of flour:

  1. Use a spoon, scoop or smaller measuring cup to scoop the up flour
  2. Lightly sprinkle it into your designated DRY measuring cup until slightly overfilled



3. Use a knife, back of a measuring spoon or other flat metal utensil to level it off.

Voila! Properly measured flour!

(Wanna be EXTRA precise?  Use a food scale.  Anytime baking recipes include weights, I use them. Cooks Illustrated, the authority of “tested and perfected”, recommends THIS one. Scales are a great investment because they last forever and you can use them for measuring any food (for meal prep, double checking weights for recipes, and more)).

Cooking Tip Tuesday: The secret to separating eggs

Did you know that it’s much easier to separate eggs if they are cold?  Mind blowing, right?

When your eggs are cold, the yolks are firmer and thus, separate from the white much easier.  Think about it…when yolks are warmer, they are softer, which puts them at a higher risk of breaking.  So, if you have a recipe that requires only egg whites or egg whites separated from the yolk, separate them when they are cold. Then, if the recipes requires “room temperature” egg whites or yolks, allow them to come to room temp in their respective bowls.

Cooking Tip Tuesday: Rest your meat

resting meat

You’ve probably heard, “let your meat rest” before slicing but, do you actually do it?  It’s hard when you’re hungry and that juicy piece of meat is calling to you, “Eat me!  Eat me nowwww!”.  OK, maybe meat doesn’t talk BUT, if it could, it would cry, “Let me rest.  Just for 10 minutes.  You can do it”.

Have you ever wondered why?

When your food is cold, the muscle fibers are relaxed. Take a steak, for example. When you throw it on the heat, the muscle fibers tense up.  You’ll loose some moisture in the cooking process but when the meat is cooked, if you let it rest, the moisture slowly infuses evenly back into the meat, giving you a more juicy, tender, flavorful piece.

Alternatively, if you slice it right after it comes off the heat, all the moisture is still concentrated in the middle of the meat, leaving you with a pool of juice on your cutting board.  Sad :(.

There’s a lot of science behind it and if you want to read a great, in depth article about it, check out this article by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from The Food Lab.

And please, for the love of all things juicy, let your meat rest.