The one kitchen gadget I couldn’t live without…

I like gizmos.  Gizmos and gadgets to be more specific.  I’m not sure what the difference is between the two but I’m sure there must be a difference and it’s probably an important one.  But I do know that I love them both.

Before I get to the one “gadget” that I am absolutely smitten with, I need to offer some context. As your read the following take a moment to consider – what is the one item that you have in your kitchen that many would think is a simple gadget that you simply couldn’t live without.

We also have less than 4 feet of workable counter space and very limited storage in our kitchen.  We have a single drawer which stores a mess of these things – enough space to hide anything that you are precisely looking for while not allowing you room to expand by a single other item.  It’s a bit like pandora’s box – once you open it you may never be able to close it.

Alas, all is not loss – we, indeed, have more room to store things.  An old flour container (which, despite being pretty, never actually contained flour) efficiently robs us of a remaining square foot of counter space to store every long tool we can jam in it.  We store two types of tools in this space:

  • spoons and other long-handled instruments of precision cooking that we use once a day or more.
  • spoons and other long-handled instruments of precision cooking that we use once a decade or less.

Life is, after all, about balance.

All cheekiness aside, there are many things I love about our kitchen.  There’s a massive exposed brick wall, open concept which means our kitchen is also our living room, main room and living space.  Preserving space is thin but it’s never lonely.  It’s great to host a party in and our dog loves to run around.  I’m just trying to illustrate that there is not a lot of room to waste and we have to be selective on what tools we add to our lives.  There are many things I want to add long-term – for now I collect a lot of patience and selectively add (and subtract) items to our arsenal of cooking tools.

We have purged many items over the years.  I can think of a few:

  • many broken/ inferior meat thermometers
  • spoons and spatulas – especially broken ones.  I’m not sure how one breaks a spoon although I seem to (there was the unfortunate incident of dropping one in a running food processor of course)
  • a juicer
  • bowls
  • bad glasses replaced by worse glasses (they broke frequently) replaced by no glasses
  • a tortilla press.  I didn’t use it once in 3 years and I often wish I had it – though I likely wouldn’t use it.
  • cookie cutters (note to self: I haven’t made cookies in 20 years, probably don’t need any for a while)
  • many different versions of measuring cups, spoons and other such devices.

Most of all I got rid of things that we were given or added to the kitchen that we never used and I simply don’t remember.

All of this got me thinking: If there was one inanimate object in my kitchen that I had a little bit of a man-crush on, what would it be?  When it comes to gadgets, I’ve loved and lost – certainly this experience must help me discover some sort of passion for some remaining item in our kitchen arsenal.

The process of elimination took nanoseconds.  I am simply in love with my microplane.

The one kitchen gadget I couldnt live without... January

It is deceptively easy to clean, super affordable and something I use almost every day.  I find myself consistently surprised at its many uses:

  • Cheese.  It is the King, Queen, Prince, Princess and Emperor of grating cheese.  Super fine shreds which melt softly as they are eaten and add massive flavor to every bite of a salad, dressing or more.
  • Grating spices.  Frozen ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and even garlic in a pinch.
  • Bread crumbs – grating stale frozen bread
  • Zesting.  Way faster than a speeding train – or even a zester.  The pieces are not as long as a hand zester (which we also have) but it makes amazingly fast work of citrus as we learned with more than 40 lemons and limes last weekend.

It’s like my BFF in the kitchen – always there when no other tool is while not burdening me with the guilt of not calling for days on end.  I find myself surprised on how often I use it (almost daily) and can’t imagine life without it.

Any other guilty pleasures out there?

When life gives you lemons…dehydrate them…

The learning continues.

I had a bounty of organic lemons.  The time was at hand and the mission simple – clean, cut and lay them out.  Put them on trays and insert into dehydrator.  6-8 hours later I would pull out golden jewels which would be a secret ingredient for citrus canning later this month (yeppers, for the Tigress Can Jam).

Instead it took about 20 hours and I pulled out something closer to a series of bronze medals:

When life gives you lemons...dehydrate them... Preserving Recipes Lemon January [Read more...]

Learning about making your own pizza

I made my own pizza again lest night.  It’s not something I do on a regular basis but it’s not something novel either.  Pizza is close to being a favourite – a status it achieved through almost a month exploring Italy about 7 years ago.

I decided to try something different last night – I turned to Jim Lahey’s – yep, the same one who invented No Knead Bread – for pizza advice.  The results were stunning:

Learning about making your own pizza January

There were several things I learned from this recipe and it’s approach which challenged my past experiences making pizza:

  • He does not use a pizza stone – a baking tray will do.
  • No need for cornmeal or flour at the bottom of your cooking tray either, line it with olive oil.
  • No rolling pins, no tossing.  Hand stretch it in your pan.This created a few tears which were patched up – I worried these would cause the pizza to stick to the pan but that was a non issue with the oil.
  • The sauce is extremely liquid.  In fact it is a can of plum tomatoes (14.5 ounces of tomatoes and 2/4 cup of the juice) and some olive oil.  This flys in the face of commercial pizza “paste” and what I thought made sense.  The liquid sauce keeps things moist and does not reduce to to the sweeter side of things.
  • Avoid saucing the middle of your pizza.  This I realized previously but this recipe took this to new heights.  I “kissed” the middle with sauce and want heavy on the outside as it tends to cook first.  Common sense but this had alluded me previously.
  • Cook it hot and long.  Hot I knew – but I did not expect my Pizza to survive at 500 degrees for almost 30 minutes.  The instructions were to wait for the edges to pull back from the pan and become slightly charred.   I thought this effect was only produced in a pizza oven.

The crust was thin and crispy on the outside as it gave way to a wonderfully soft and chewy crust in the middle.

Any tricks out there from other pizza lovers?  We’d love to hear them.

Check your fruit – dehydrated cranberries

Craisins.  Beautiful, sweet and bitter all at the same time.  Great in salads, granola or just for eating as is.  I love them.  I couldn’t wait to get cranberries into the dehydrator.

Lesson learned: craisins are not dehydrated cranberries.  Our small, shrivelled bits are intriguing, bitter, and interesting.  Did I mention bitter?

Check your fruit   dehydrated cranberries Preserving Recipes January Cranberry [Read more...]

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Vegetarian Split Pea Soup


We have been fairly meat-heavy on Cheap Tuesday Gourmet.  Living in a winter clime produces an inversion of pricing in the markets seasonally – meat can be cheaper the veggies in the winter and seasonal veggies drop under the price of meat in the warmer months.

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   Vegetarian Split Pea Soup Peas January Cooking Recipes Cheap Tuesday Gourmet [Read more...]

Dehydrating Lime and Lemon Zest

When we started canning, I was prepared for a long struggle in learning how to become proficient in a new skill.  It was a pleasant surprise to see how easy it was and how quick one could learn.  Success came from the first batch.

When we started dehydrating (4 batches ago at the end of December), I was ready for a short progression and instant gratification.  Place slices or whole fruit and veg in the magic box and pull out when dry.  Sounded easy.  I am learning that there is a bigger learning curve here than I thought.

Dehydrating Lime and Lemon Zest Preserving Recipes Lime Lemon January [Read more...]

Dehydrated Orange Slices

I have frequent memories of reading Mad Magazines and torn issues of Cracked as a child.  These were cartoony parodies, often cynical and often more cutting than the silly cover portrayed.

Although I have many general memories of these magazines (“What Me Worry?”, Spy Vs. Spy and movie parodies), I only have one specific memory of a particular item in the pages I once poured over.  The Magazine would often take common photos and add their own captions for humour.  They ran a piece on a motorcycle rally and had a photo of a woman driving a motorcycle with the caption “My boyfriend taught me how to drive his bike – I learn how to stop tomorrow!”  (When I read this I missed the obvious sexist undertones as I was young and tender :)).

Dehydrated Orange Slices Preserving Recipes Orange January [Read more...]

Food Porn – a few beautiful sites

It’s early on a Saturday morning.  Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and flip through some of these sites – they are low on text and high on great photos.  Let your brain wake up slowly – get your hunger going faster:

Food Porn Daily
Food Gawker
Slashfood Flickr Pool
Food Porn Group on Flickr

Happy Saturday!

Fledgling Wine – drinking our way to others literacy

It was way back in May that we posted about Crushpad – a SanFrancisco based company that allowed people to make their own wine – at up to $10,000 a barrel.  Crushpad bills itself as a winery for hire – you buy a wine by the barrel and are involved in every step of the making of the wine, all guided by them.  They will also guide you through the process of selling your wine as well.  The grapes are grown or purchased from the best wineries in California and you are presented many options to create exactly what you want.

A founder of Twitter (Biz Stone), the founder of Crushpad (Michael Brill) and charity Room to Read (founded by John Wood) have teamed up to create Fledgling Wine – a wine company which donates $5 a bottle to Room to Read.  Mr. Brill claims this wine is identical to bottles which sell for $50 by big named wineries and that this project is retailing them (through prepurchase) for $20.

As you’ll see in the accompanying video, Room to Read is trying to reduce poverty through increasing Literacy in the 3rd world.  Their goal is to touch 10 million kids by the year 2020.

The following video introduces Fledling Wine in less than 2 minutes:

You can

Chef Lynn Crawford opening new restaurant in Leslieville (Toronto)

Although many are talking about Lynn Crawford coming to the east end, there doesn’t seem to be a lot written about it yet.  Being that her new restaurant will be closer than the distance we walk for four trips of laundry, we are a tad excited.

The many reasons you may recognize her name:

  • Former Executive Chef, Four Seasons, New York
  • Former Executive Chef, Four Seasons, Toronto
  • The only female executive chef in the four seasons (at the time) – in all of their 70 restaurants worldwide
  • Food Network Canada – Restaurant Makeover
  • Food Network – Iron Chef America (Battle Peanut with Bobby Flay.  She lost by 2 but beat him in the plating category)
  • She has been an executive chef since 1994.

She, along with Cherie Stinson (of Restaurant Makeover and renowned design firm Yabu Pushelberg) and Cherie’s husband Joey Skeir will manage the front of house.

Regular commenter of WellPreserved (and dear friend) Kerry heard an interview with Chef Crawford yesterday where she announced the name for the first time – Ruby Watchco (Watcjko?).  It is expected to open by March.

It’s an exciting prospect for the neighborhood.  It sounds like there will be a focus on local and seasonal – we are waiting with much excitement for more news and will share when we do.