Monthly Archives: June 2016

How To Clean A Cutting Board Properly

how to clean a cutting board

Full disclosure here: I treat my cutting boards horribly. Well, one cutting board anyway. It’s a kind of textured plastic that’s served me solidly for going on 15 years. I usually throw it into the dishwasher at least a couple of times a week. The cutting board is not unaffected. It’s now warped.

So, in an effort to be a better cutting board owner, I decided to do a little research into how exactly one goes about cleaning (and of course, disinfecting) a cutting board regardless of the material it’s made of.

I discovered that I really have no reason (or excuse) to subject my poor, old faithful cutting board to the dishwasher. Cleaning a cutting board properly is really very quick and easy.

So many of the natural foods that stock our fridges and pantries are perfect for cleansing both plastic and wooden cutting boards.

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface of the cutting board; spray with undiluted white vinegar. Let the mixture foam for about 5 or 10 minutes (depending on how much cleaning and disinfecting is needed). Then rinse under cool, running water or use a cool, damp cloth to wipe the baking soda mixture off the board. Dry well.
  • Rub the entire cutting board surface with the cut side of half a lemon. Squeeze a little extra juice onto the board as your rubbing the lemon half across the surface. Lemon juice will not only clean the surface, it will deodorize it, too. Rinse the board with a cool, damp cloth. Dry well.
  • Combine salt and lemon juice until the mixture forms a paste. Rub the paste well all over the cutting board. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse with a cool, damp cloth. Dry well.

Once your board is nice and clean, you can rub oil into your wood cutting board. Let air dry. Then store upright, if possible.

What do you use to keep your cutting board looking and functioning like new?

The Best Non-Stick Cookware

Photo: foodal.com

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s spent piles of money over the years on non-stick cookware only to toss it out six months after I’ve bought it. One way or another – and no matter how careful I am cleaning it – my non-stick cookware becomes extensively sticky cookware.

That’s the part that really gets to me. Losing its non-stickiness is one thing. I could just deal with that. The problem is that the once non-stick pan becomes so “sticky” that even adding a whole lot of oil or butter to the pan doesn’t keep the food from sticking. Continuing to use it results in a smoke-filled kitchen as the food in the pan burns, or dishevelled-looking food as I try to flip the food over and over again to prevent it from sticking.

So, to that end, I decided to do a little research into a few of the non-stick cookware products available for purchase, and let you in on which are worth the cost and which aren’t.

Photo: GreenPan

Photo: GreenPan

GreenPan coats their pots and pans with Thermolon technology which is heat resistant. It can be heated to 850°F without releasing toxic fumes or resulting in any damage to the cooking surface.

Photo: GreenEarth

Photo: GreenEarth

The Ozeri Green Pan is made in Germany and is completely free of toxic chemicals. It’s coated with a non-stick ceramic surface. It’s even oven safe to 300°F, which means it’s best used on the stovetop and kept out of the oven except for low temperature situations.

Photo: Cuisinart GreenGourmet

Photo: Cuisinart GreenGourmet

Cuisinart has created this non-stick pan that is free of toxic chemicals. It’s one of the less expensive non-stick products available on the market today, and it may not last as long as the other two, but it’s a great one to get started with.

Over to you: What’s your experience with non-stick cookware been like? Let us know!

 

The Best Books For The Kitchen

kitchen books

The kitchen truly is the heart of the home. It’s where we nourish our bodies with great food. It’s where we nourish our souls with the company of friends and family. Here’s one you might not have thought of. The kitchen is also where we nourish our minds.

Most kitchens are graced by the presence of books. But, the question is, what kind of books live there. If your kitchen looks anything like mine, you’ll have cookbooks piled up on the countertop, on top of the fridge, or maybe they’re lined up nicely on a bookshelf beside the microwave.

Tell me what your go-to cookbooks are? Here are some of the best three cookbooks that will have you back in the kitchen cooking up a storm:

  • Slow Cooker Revolution America’s Test Kitchen I love this reinvention of the slow cooker. This book has a variety of recipes made great by the fact that the authors have gone to great lengths to ensure that every dish is as flavorful as possible.
  • Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes Yotam Ottolenghi This Israel-born, London-residing chef knows a thing or two about getting the most out of vegetables.
  • Momofuku David Chang and Peter Meehan Looking for something a little different than the usual? This one’s for you. These restaurant recipes are easy to reproduce at home and are sure to impress.

As I suggested above, the kitchen is also the perfect place to feed the mind. Here are some of the best fiction and non-fiction books to read in the kitchen while you’re waiting for your fabulous meal to cook.

  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly Anthony Bourdain Written by a chef who’s been a fixture in the industry for decades, Bourdain reveals the alien world in which top chefs exist.
  • The Belly of Paris Emile Zola Set within the changing society of Paris in 1851, Zola introduces us to Florent Quenu who embarks on a journey to find himself and come to understand a Paris he no longer recognizes within a setting of food markets, restaurants and the wonderful cuisine of France.
  • Eat Cake Jeanne Ray If you ever wondered about the power of food to heal, this novel may be just what you need to convince you. The story details the ups and downs of a family, and how the mom deals with it all by baking treats.

Over to you: What are your favorite books for the kitchen?

Renovating Can Be Fun

renovating is fun

Ok, show of hands: how many of you have said “Never again!” after completing a renovation? I admit it I have. Renovating even one small room in your home can really test the limits of anyone’s sanity.

First is the fact that what was your cozy home is now a full-blown construction site. Even if all you’re doing is painting a room, furniture (at the very least) must shift.

Imagine, if you will, how disruptive a kitchen renovation can be! I’ve been through it twice. I’ve even managed to maintain my grip on reality. Honestly. So, I thought I’d mine my reno experience and pull out some useful tips to help you stay sane and happy, too.

  • Communication is key. I’ve made the mistake of assuming the contractor working on my kitchen remembered the change to the plans I had discussed with him the week before. Write out all changes, and discuss them with the contractor the same day that the work is scheduled to be done.
  • No kitchen, no cooking. Have you thought about where you’ll be preparing your meals and eating during the renovation? My first kitchen renovation took place over the summer. The solution was easy: pull out the barbecue. My second reno began in the winter and lasted, literally, through the next 12 months! Was it a complicated renovation? Not at all. My kitchen was a low priority for my contractor, and so, I had to wait. For one whole year, on and off, I had to make different eating arrangements. Not fun. See the next point below.
  • Have a pre-construction meeting. That meeting is your opportunity to lay out your needs and expectations when it comes to everything from renovation timeline to who does the finishing (like, if they chip the paint in another room in the house).
  • Let the dust settle. Both figuratively and literally. First, remember that everyone is under pressure. The contractor wants to finish the job and move on to the next. You and your family want to be able to enjoy your home in the way that you’re used to. Whenever set-backs arise (and they definitely will), take a long, deep breath and roll with it. Second, seal off doorways with plastic to minimize the amount of dust that will inevitably travel from the renovation site through every other room in your house.

What other tips have you gathered on your own reno projects? Share them with our community!

Special Father’s Day Recipe For Your Dad

Photo: tasteofhome.com

Photo: tasteofhome.com

Father’s Day will be dawning this Sunday. Are you ready? Don’t give dad another tie! Instead, treat him to a wonderful meal. Dad will love the effort you’ve gone to making him his favorite dishes.

It’s often the case that Mother’s Day gets all the attention. So, go above and beyond to show dad that he’s appreciated, loved and worth all the effort. Starting with breakfast, let’s show dad how much we love him!

Because you’re treating him to breakfast, you won’t even need to start the barbecue. Just make sure you remember to turn on the range hood fan to help disperse the steam and smoke.

Starting the day with pancakes is always amazing. But, since dad is so special, let’s go one better. Why not cook up a wonderful and delicious Breakfast Burger?

Breakfast Burgers

Adapted from the Food Network Kitchen, this masterpiece will have dad drooling first thing in the morning.

Dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp horseradish spread

Burger

6 oz ground beef

4 oz ground veal

Salt and Pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 slice cheese (use dad’s favorite)

1 handful arugula

2 eggs

Hamburger buns

Directions

Dressing – Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and horseradish; set aside.

Burgers – Combine the ground beef and veal in a large bowl. Stir in 1 egg. Mix in salt and pepper. Form mixture into patties.

Heat the olive oil in a pan.

Cook burgers over medium-high heat until brown and internal temperature has reached 160°F. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Turn the heat down to low and crack the egg into the hot pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the mayonnaise mixture on both sides of the bun. Lay the slice of cheese and one burger patty on the bun next. Place the egg on the burger and add a few leaves of arugula. Top with the other half of the bun. Serve it to dad with his favorite morning drink – a black coffee, cappuccino or lemon-scented tea.

Looking for more? Check out these great recipes.

 

Entertaining With Beautiful Acrylicware

acrylicware

Summer is the ideal time to get out of the kitchen and into the backyard. Along with outdoor cooking, we also need dishware that’s designed for outdoor use, too. Glasses, plates and cutlery meant to be used on the patio or at a picnic have come a long way since the days of paper plates and white plastic (and easily breakable) forks and knives.

Today’s modern patioware is typically made out of strong acrylic that looks and feels like glass and china. This year’s summer designs are out and as beautiful as ever. Colorful artwork adorns dishes, glasses that replicate exactly the cut and shape of wine, water and juice glasses … they make you want to completely ignore your usual china dishes and use acrylic for entertaining instead.

Even discount or department stores are beginning to carry acrylicware that sports a designer look and feel. So, there’s no excuse not to stock your patio with these beautiful collections.

Have a look at this melamine plate and pitcher from Crate & Barrel. That company has actually commissioned a housewares designer to create an exclusive set for their customers.

Photo: crateandbarrel.com

Photo: crateandbarrel.com

These colorful Carnival Brights plates and Kira tumblers are fun and fresh. Find them at Pier 1.

Photo: pier1.com

Photo: pier1.com

Sometimes, you really want the plates and glasses to take a backseat to the food. Colorful dishes can sometimes take the focus away from the array of food on offer. In that case, a clear or solid color set is what you’re after. Target is featuring the Swivel Collection. Sturdy, functional and completely clear, these plates and glasses will showcase the meal.

Photo: intl.target.com

Photo: intl.target.com

Over to you: What kind of dishes, glasses and cutlery do you like to use on the patio?

 

Tips To Help You Choose The Right Range Hood

range hood

Isn’t the range hood in the picture gorgeous? I love the clean lines, and the fact that it looks anything but like a typical range hood. Not all kitchens can accommodate this open design, though.

Renovating my own kitchen revealed some nasty truths about the range hood that I’d been faithfully using. First, that beautiful copper hood was actually paint. Second, the fan was just too small for the standard range that sat beneath it, and third, the venting system hadn’t even been hooked up! All that time (about a year!) of turning on that old, loud fan, it was doing absolutely nothing to dissipate the steam!

I suppose I should have expected that. The kitchen in my 60 year old house had never been updated. I wanted to take the whole room and put it in a museum. Sure, retro is in … but not quite to that degree.

Anyway, there I was in the market for a brand new range hood. Never having had to buy one before, I had no idea what to consider. So, after talking to a number of experts on the subject, I decided to compile what I learned and let you in on a few important tips.

It’s (Not) All About Style

One of the first things anyone sees when they walk into a kitchen is the range hood. Everyone wants to own the most stylish hood because it adds to the overall beauty of the kitchen. But, step back a bit. The first consideration should not be the look. It should be what the range hood offers you in practical function. Find out what each hood hood in your budget and style preference does, and whether it meets the way you use your kitchen and range.

The Over-The-Range Microwave

Given that my kitchen is fairly small, and I use my microwave enough for it to merit its own space, I was completely bent on buying an over-the-range microwave. A tool that serves two functions instead of one is a great option, right? Apparently not. The general consensus, I learned, is that the microwave-come-range hood works in very limited circumstances. If you find yourself cooking very little, and hence producing little smoke and steam, then this will be one handy appliance for you. If you’re cooking for a family, or just doing a lot of creative cooking, the over-the-range microwave just can’t handle the amount of steam and smoke typically produced. In the end, although this is a great product under certain circumstances, nothing beats the power of a good range hood.

Vented or Ductless?

The duct free range hood option is certainly attractive. The less ductwork anyone has to look at the easier, and perhaps more beautiful, the kitchen will be. But ducts do serve an important purpose. They can also either be hidden behind cupboards or designed to look more stylish. The original range hood in my pre-reno kitchen was ductless. The fan sucked up all the steam and smoke only to deposit it inside the cupboard space, which I then had to regularly scrub down. Not fun. Of course, not only was that old range hood not properly installed, it was also missing the necessary filters that would soak up all that dirty stuff. So, if you’re seriously considering a duct-free range hood, I’d recommend talking to a lot of experts to make sure that it is, indeed, the right choice for your kitchen and lifestyle.

Size Matters

If you’ve decided to splurge on an extra large range, you need to think about the fact that you may have to rip out some wall cabinets as well. The rule of thumb is that the range hood must be at least as wide as the cooking surface, if not an inch or two wider. The extra width ensures proper ventilation throughout the cooking process.

Over to you: How did you choose your range hood? What other tips can you offer?

How To Choose The Right Kitchen Sink

kitchen sink

We’ve all heard it, right? “They took everything but the kitchen sink!” What is it about the kitchen sink that causes it to be left behind all the time? I’m guessing that it might have something to do with the fact that no one ever really gives it much thought. It’s just a stainless steel bowl. Who would ever be interested in stealing it. Of course, the saying might also refer to the fact that sinks (if properly installed) can’t actually be ripped out very easily.

But, I’m going to stick with my first idea. If no one ever really gave the kitchen sink a second thought before, they certainly are now. Sinks come in all kinds of materials – ceramic, granite, plastic, and, of course, stainless steel. They also now come in a whole variety of shapes, widths and depths. They can be mounted on top of the counter or underneath. The options seem endless. How can you possibly choose amongst all those possibilities.

When I renovated my small kitchen years ago, I chose a small, single sink because I wanted to maximize counter space. That, I can tell you now, was the wrong decision. So you don’t end up walking the same path I did, I decided to pull together some tips to help you make a more informed choice.

A Single Sink

Sometimes, like in my situation, you just don’t have space for a double sink. In that case, steal as much space as you comfortably can from your counter space and install a large single sink. You’ll appreciate it when you have to scrub a large pot or wide baking sheet! Many manufacturers sell accessories for single sinks to better accommodate our everyday needs.

The Double Sink

If you’ve got the kitchen space, this set up is ideal. A sink with two basins of equal size makes it easy to do whatever you need to do while prepping meals and cleaning up. There’s no need to wash up the pile of plates, glasses and utensils that are cluttering up the sink before you can begin washing fruit and vegetables. Keep an eye on the size of the basins, though. Sometimes, the two basins can be smaller than one very large basin. It’s a good idea to measure your largest pot or pan. If it fits in the basin, then you’ll be happy using your double sink.

Two Basins – Different Sizes

These sinks are great if you’re limited by available space. The larger basin becomes the receptacle for all the dirty dishes that you’ll get around to washing eventually. The smaller basin remains clear for washing fruit and vegetables.

Three (or more!) Basins

It is possible to buy sink combinations that contain three or more basins that vary in size. Be aware that these take up considerable room in the kitchen. Consider whether or not installing one would leave you enough countertop space to prepare meals, and whether or not the largest basin would accomodate your larges pot or pan.

Below Level or At Level

Sinks can be mounted beneath the level of the countertop or at level. Choosing which one to go with depends entirely on personal taste. Beyond that, sinks that sit lower than the countertop do tend to keep the water spray in the sink. You know when you’re washing dishes and water sploshes out of the sink and onto the countertop? Well, that’s less likely to happen when the sink sits lower.

Material Choice

Whether you choose a sink made of porcelain, stainless steel, natural stone or some other kind of composite material, the choice depends on your personal aesthetic. Stainless steel can come with a muted or shiny look; porcelain can be purchased in almost any color. When choosing, consider your kitchen’s color and design scheme.

Over to you: let us know why you’re happy with your sink or why you aren’t!

 

The Artsy Kitchen

kitchen art

Pity the poor kitchen. There was a time (and maybe that time still exists in some homes) when the kitchen was just a one-purpose room. It’s where we prepared our meals, ate our meals, and cleaned it all up. Then we’d leave. We’d go to the TV room, outside … anywhere but the kitchen.

There seemed to be no room (or use) for art in the kitchen. After all, once all the cabinetry and appliances are installed, there’s typically very little space left for art.

Luckily, that way of using the kitchen has changed in recent years. Now, homes are designed with large kitchen-family room combinations. Or, even if they’re small, the cabinetry, countertops and appliances point to an interest in color and innovative elements.

The kitchen is no longer a utilitarian space. It’s become a place of comfort, beauty and joy.

The latest trend is to load the walls and any other available surface with art. Sculpture adoring a corner floor space or a series of framed prints lining a small area on the wall by the fridge, take a good look at your kitchen (even if it’s very small). You may be surprised at how much art you can fit in.

The answer to what kind of art works in a kitchen is completely subjective. Family photos, abstract paintings, unique pieces of kitchen hardware, even recipe cards all make interesting visuals in a room that most of us tend to spend a lot of time occupying. Why not fill it with beautiful things?

Wall of Art

kitchen art 1Even a small area of wall space can function as a kind of a gallery. Make sure prints, paintings or textiles are placed in matching frames. Intersperse framed art with words painted directly on the wall and unique pieces of kitchen hardware, like a decorative spoon holder.

Utensil Art

kitchen art 2A lot of kitchen hardware manufacturers are creating items that are both useful and artful. The Alessi design house is particularly conscious of bringing art and fun into the kitchen, as is OTOTI.

Accent Art

kitchen art 3Sometimes you just don’t have the space to hang anything at all on the wall or stand a sculpture on the floor. Space is really at a premium in small kitchens. Despite that challenge, bringing art into that room is still entirely possible. Focus on purchasing a few accent pieces, like artfully-designed chairs or unique cabinet handles.

Tell us how you bring art into your kitchen!

5 Unique Kitchen Designs

kitchen lights

Kitchen design trends come and go … and sometimes that’s a good thing. Take, for instance, the harvest color collections that filled our kitchens in the 1970s. Do you remember all those green and gold fridges and stoves pushed against walls covered in glossy, plastic wallpaper printed with large bright yellow sunflowers?

Kitchen design has come a long way since then. But, has it really improved? I would answer that question with a cautious “kind of”. Many new homes are built now with combination kitchen-family rooms. Usually extending across the back of a house, these larger spaces allow for extra counter space, an eat-in area, and even room for a couch and coffee table. I love that idea. I need a kitchen space that allows me the opportunity to cook to my heart’s content all while enjoying the company of my friends and family.

As far as kitchen design goes, there are lots of reasons why preferences change. Sometimes we’re just tired of looking at the same-old-same-old. A decade or so of staring at harvest gold colors would make anyone crave neutrality. Voilà, the 1980s with its emphasis on off-whites, beiges, greys and a hint of pink now and then.

Stainless steel, natural stone and wood have had what seems to me to be a long run in popularity. I have to wonder how long we’ll want to deck out our kitchens with those materials. But then, if not those, what’s next? Hmm, I’m looking at composite materials, mash-ups of glass and plastic even wood and glass as the next big thing. New materials that are engineered to look as beautiful as the natural products they mimic, yet are stronger, sturdier and perhaps even greener.

In the meantime, tell me what you think of these 5 unique kitchen designs.

steel kitchenThe all-stainless steel look. Similar to a restaurant kitchen, this idea takes our preference for stainless steel appliances to extremes. Wiping down stainless steel countertops and appliances is one thing. Imagine cleaning stainless steel walls, too!

lacqueredLacquer is the new wood. Glossy cabinets and walls, lacquered in bright colors, like orange and green is the latest hot trend.

small kitchenI have a small kitchen. But, the one pictured here makes mine look massive. With space, particularly in cities, at a premium, small kitchens are becoming big again. Functioning well in these spaces forces us to negotiate how we use the room and how routines can be reimagined.

outdoor kitchenThe outdoor living space is all the rage. I’ve even seen outdoor bathrooms (and I don’t mean old outhouses)! Building and using an outdoor kitchen is relatively easy if you live in a climate that supports that kind of design. But, even for those living in colder climes, where summer seems fleeting at best, an outdoor kitchen is a must-have. It offers the opportunity to get out of the house and live in the warmth of summer after being cooped up inside all winter.

retroThe retro look isn’t going away anytime soon. The key to doing it right is to inject the right amount of modern elements alongside the retro elements. Using minimalist, streamlined seating against a retro color backdrop actually works really nicely.