Another New Stovetop

Yesterday I replaced our island cooktop, again. This time we spent a bit more money on it than the previous cooking surface. And I’m okay with that.

When we first bought our home, we had a really old, but reliable cast iron stovetop. We lived with it for seven years before replacing it. Honestly, if it worked and cooked- why replace it? We only replaced it because my wife found a great deal on a “new to us” stovetop.

On November 25th, 2014- my wife found a $1000 stovetop on Facebook for the price of $50. SCORE! So out with the old and in with the new. Once I installed the new cooktop, the first thing I made was grilled cheese sandwiches. What better way to test how well it works than with a traditional melted sandwich?

The stove worked well for a few years until the large burner stopped working. Parts for the stovetop were not readily available for this model. However, I was able to do a quick fix that worked for quite some time. I had to do this fix twice more over the past year until the burner finally gave up. It was time to bite the bullet and get a new stovetop.

After some online research, I found one that had good reviews and was of average price… average price being just under $1000! The Home Depot had one on display, so I went to talk to an associate about it.

Did you know that Home Depot will beat any advertised price on the same item by 10%? I saved nearly $100 because I found it advertised for 1¢ cheaper elsewhere. One cent saved my one hundred dollars. (Do your research people- it pays off!)

I installed the new stove quickly and you know the first thing I cooked?

A grilled cheese sandwich. Which my son promptly wanted. So I made a second sandwich. Which my daughter then wanted. Finally I got to enjoy the third grilled cheese sandwich I made.

It’s a pretty good stovetop and I look forward to using it. That must be a grown up thing. Looking forward to using new appliances. Oh yeah, it also plays a little tune when it gets turned on and off. Cute but unnecessary. Just like our washing machine.

The songs do bring me joy…

…for now.

My Turkey Helper

On Saturday I had two of our children help with baking: Saturday Baking with My Kids. Yesterday I had our middle child help with our turkey dinner.

We had a lot of fun preparing the bird. I love teaching my children the art of cooking. Giving explanations to the “hows” and “whys” when cooking is always important. From temperatures to spices- it’s all important.

Once the bird had been cooking for a few hours, it was back to making the side dishes. Vegetables and mashed potatoes were about to be prepared. Our daughter thought her helping out was over after the bird so she had gotten changed into some nicer clothes. Little did she know that making a feast takes a lot of effort! But she willingly assisted.

Our dinner turned out delicious. We now have plenty of leftovers to last the week. From soup to sandwiches- we will be eating turkey leftovers until we are sick of them. Much like everyone else who is celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend.

So enjoy your meals with family and friends. Don’t let the Tryptophan knock you down. I’m ready for a nap just writing about it.

Cabin Adventures: Day 2

Let’s talk about food shall we? A very important aspect of any trip. Especially at a cabin or when camping.

Tuesday- waking up at the crack of dawn, the kids were calmly playing together. I was half awake/half asleep laying in bed until 8:30am. Mostly because the kids were getting hungry and started bugging me to make breakfast. They knew what I was making and their hunger was growing.

Before coming to the cabin, I had laid out a meal plan. This helps keep the guesswork out of the day. This morning was French toast and bacon. The smell of breakfast filled our little cabin and constant questions from the kids of “when is breakfast?” loomed in the air. I think the anticipation helps to make the food taste better.

The kids have been extremely helpful so far. They work together to set the table, clearing the table and doing dishes. The 12 year old boys wanted to make Mac ‘n Cheese for lunch in hopes of getting out of dish duty for that meal. But when it came time to make lunch, they chose to continue playing in the lake. So they wanted to help with dinner.

Dinner was made by myself with the help of the kids. The boys made the salad and my daughter made the fries. She used the bacon grease from breakfast and it made the fries that much more delicious. It was a good effort by all.

Planning the meals in advance also helps to make sure the perishables get used first. Vegetables, breads, thawed meat, etc are prepared in the first couple of days. By the end of a trip we end up eating the canned and boxed goods.

I’m happy that everyone is pitching in. I’m equally impressed with all the help and the fact that the kids want to learn how to prepare the meals.

So far on this trip, Day 2 has been successful.

Grilled

I love to cook. It’s a passion of mine. I love to experiment with foods. Both healthy and otherwise. We also have an abundance of cooking equipment. From a vegetable steamer to a deep fryer. Slow cooker to a BBQ. We have numerous cast iron pans, a wok, a pasta maker, mixers, and even a couple of fondue pots.

Today we are using a Dazey Nutri Broil Smokeless Indoor Grill. I found it at the local Value Village a few weeks ago for $10. It was brand new and never used. We are going to use it outside- because safety! I’ve never used an indoor grill before. And who knows if this will even work. Best to try cooking outside.

These first pictures are from a couple of months ago on Easter Sunday while we were on vacation. Our trip to Tokyo has inspired tonight’s dinner.

I have prepared an abundance of beef and pork for our meal tonight. Since we are grilling some meat up, I thought why not try cooking as a family. We took turns flipping the meat and serving it up.

Dinner was a success. The grill worked wonderfully. Time to prepare for a meat coma! Beer obviously went best with tonight’s dinner, so I bought a large can of Asahi to share with my wife.

We sat around the outside table and grilled the meat. It was 90 minutes of talking and laughing as a family. I think we may have to do this more often. I love that we all reminisced and planned future vacations over a lovely meal.

The “Not-So-Secret” Secret To A Good BBQ

BBQ season is here! Flames, food, and friends. I love to barbecue. I have gotten pretty good at making food. Here are the secrets I utilize:

First a decent grill. Mine is okay and has five lengthwise individual burners. Prefect for when you need to use indirect heat for food such as brisket or ribs. Keeping good care of your grill is important as well. I always scrape the grills after they cool off and again before I start my meal. A few times a season I also clean the bottom of the barbecue of any crispy bits.

Next is taking the time to cook your meals. I like to start at a high heat in order to get a nice grill mark. I also add a third of a turn in order to create a “diamond grill mark”. The high heat is done within the first 2 minutes. Then I turn the heat down to medium or low depending on what I’m cooking. Usually I flip at this point in order to get a quick grill mark on the opposite side. Then cook slow and steady.

The biggest secret is having people to share the food with. I love serving friends and family. Here’s to good food and good times!

Failed Frying to Fantastic Foods

Last year I wrote about my successes involving my Deep Fryer. To get there, I did have to suffer a few catastrophic trials. No injuries to myself mind you. There was that time my wife got a blister on her eyeball from an oil droplet flying at her. That was gross.

But it didn’t happen to me, so we will say it’s all good.

My failures have included food attempts. The first was when I was a teen. I thought it would be an easier way to make a grilled cheese sandwich by deep frying it.

Nope.

The bread morphed into a crispy oil coral reef and the cheese disintegrated into the oil. Big fail. Never again. Not even worth trying to eat.

Another time, I attempted to make deep fried pancake wrapped breakfast sausage. This also failed because of too much batter and the oil overtook the pancake making it extremely greasy. Thank goodness I had other goodies that day to make.

But these failures won’t stop me from trying new foods to deep fry. I want to make deep fried California Rolls one day, just like my favorite Sushi Restaurant- Nikko Sushi– does. Mmmm deep fried sushi….

Tonight I am making schnitzel and using my deep fat fryer. I have perfected this recipe and my family loves it. So even though I have made mistakes along the way, I have had numerous successes as well.

But let’s pretend that a deep fried grilled cheese would taste good, ok? Or use this Secret to making a good grilled cheese. Trust me.

My Place is In The Kitchen

Nearly everyone has a recipe or two that they love to make.  I have a few that I have perfected over the years.  So does my wife.  We also love trying new recipes.

I am a master at making schnitzel.  I’m also one of the best at BBQing pork.  Not to mention how great I am at deep frying.  But breakfast is my specialty. Omelettes, waffles, pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs…  Almost alway perfect for starting the day off right. All of this is thanks to my father.

Every Sunday after my father finished watching golf on tv- cooking shows would go on. PBS was a staple on our family room television every weekend. I learned how to cook through osmosis by just being in the room listening to the chefs explain food preparation while I played Legos or Transformers. My father would often be upset at me for not wanting to help him in the kitchen. I tried, but he had a quick temper and very little patience for teaching.

Yesterday while cleaning out our kitchen cupboards, my wife discovered two of my fathers old kitchen appliances. I have kept them for over 17 years with an intention of using them one day. My father had an electric meat grinder he bought back in 1983. (I’m pretty sure it was from the days of when he owned a deli.) This machine was only used a handful of times and is in near pristine condition. The other is a pasta maker from the 90’s that was only ever used twice to my knowledge.

But my favorite machine of my father’s is his old Kitchen Aid mixer. This is from the mid 80’s and cost about $450 back then! (Today’s dollars would be like $1025- good thing the mixers are usually about $299 at Christmas if anyone wants one.) I remember being with my mother when she bought it for him. When I inherited it back in early 2001- I quickly went out and bought every attachment available. Kitchen Aid has never changed and this has made for an extremely durable and valuable piece of equipment. Of course, I “vandal-eyezed” it a couple years back to give it a personal touch.

Perhaps if my father knew that I became pretty good in the kitchen- he’d have been proud. Heck, I’ve even improved his old recipes over the years. Cooking is a skill that I feel everyone should have. I’m now looking into cooking classes for our oldest child (and possibly me) at the local food specialty stores.

I love to cook. But they say you can’t trust a skinny chef…

Cooking with Cast Iron

I love cooking.

I love cooking with cast iron skillets.  

My wife and I have had some cast iron frying pan skillets for nearly two decades now.  For the most part they are holding up as strong as our marriage.  But the 12″ one that we use the most of was in dire need of some TLC.


My father taught me how to care for my cast iron pans years ago.  He taught me how to season them and wash them.  I’m not going into this since it’s easily searched out online.  I love the versatility of the pans.  From oven to stovetop to campfire.  Cast iron has been a strong contender in my cooking regime.  However, after years of use and love, our one pan needed a re-surface and then seasoned again.

I wasn’t sure where to begin.  Of course I could fork over $40 and buy a new pan and toss the old one out into recycling.  But today there was a bit of a snowfall, so I needed an inside project to work on.  This was as good a time waster as any.


As noted above, I had a couple of bad spots.  Mostly my eggs were catching here.  I also didn’t want black chips scattered throughout my food.  So out came my Dremel.  With some trial and error, I began to sand away at the frying pan.


As I went, I had to rinse it and feel how the surface was doing.  Overall it took me about 45 mins to get it down to the shiny silver part of the pan.  I wasn’t trying to make it super smooth.  Otherwise when I seasoned it, the lard wouldn’t take.


It may be hard to tell from this image, but I am really proud of how the pan “cleaned up”.  It was still porous but no more large chunky pits and craters were visible.  Next came the seasoning.  I prefer Crisco lard over oil.  It is my go-to for baking, deep frying and cooking.  Something about lard makes for a cleaner all around oil base.  In using lard I was also in more control of spreading it around with a paper towel.  Once that was done, into the oven it went.


I am writing my blog post as I wait for the pan to set for about an hour in the oven.  It’s looking good so far.  

The true test will be cooking on it tomorrow.

Deep Fry My Heart

Eating healthy is a great idea at my age.  Then why do I find joy in using my deep fat fryer?  I love all the amazing foods I can make at home that the pub will charge me a small fortune for. Denny’s has got nothing on me.

  
Deep frying food goes way back for me.  My father got a T-Fal deep fryer back in the mid eighties.  I was ten years old when I found out we could make fries like a fast food restaurant in our own home.  It became a staple of our weekend dinners.  My father mastered the art of deep fried potatoes.  His only attempt at being adventurous was when he made fresh mini donuts once- only once- and they were amazing.

When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I would borrow the deep fryer for parties at my friend’s houses.  They loved the spicy curly fries I would make.  That deep fryer ended up being passed on to me when my father passed away.  I used it nearly every weekend until it finally died a few years later.  

I was without a deep fryer for only a couple of months after that.  I shopped around for the biggest home fryer I could find.  The DeLonghi deep fryer met all my needs.  It was large, clean, and had a deep basket.  I have abused the hell out of this machine!

I have gone way past my father’s attempts at deep frying.  Sure, I deep fry French fries and potatoes like my dad used to make, only better.  My friends look forward to coming over to my house for a party because I will serve deep fried shrimp and deep fried pita bread (an excellent pairing for spinach dip).  But you don’t know living until you’ve deep fried a Mars Bar or gourmet bacon.  Pickles, zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms & sweet potatos taste so much better when battered and tossed in the deep fryer. This past week alone I have enjoyed shoestring French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks & jalapeño poppers.

  
I still don’t have the courage to try and make deep fried donuts.  That was something my father made.  I don’t want to sully my memory of the look of joy on his face as he bit into his first home made donut from scratch.  I know that they would taste delicious, but I also know that if I made them, they’d taste better than what he made.

Yes, that sounds cocky.  But I’ve made it a goal in my life to improve on all of my father’s recipes.  I have succeeded.  Learning to cook properly has made me who I am in the kitchen.  Funny thing is, as much as I love my deep fried goodies, I also enjoy the vegetarian meals we make.  I’m pretty sure my deep fryer will take a break this summer as fresh fruit and vegetables will be hitting our table.

But until then, I’m going to see if there’s any more ranch dressing left for me to dip my mozza sticks into.