Kitchen Gadget: Part I

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I think it is great when someone comes up with a kitchen do-hickey that makes life easier. And, I am lucky enough to be married to a man that likes to buy me these fun kitchen gadgets. Since I love looking at them in the store I figured I would blog about some that I already have, in case anyone else finds them interesting and wants to know if they work or not.

My criteria for a good kitchen thingamabob is simple:

  1. It needs to be relatively small. I don't have a lot of room in my kitchen and anything larger than a grapefruit might as well be called an appliance, not a gadget.
  2. It needs to be a creative way to improve a process I am already doing. If it doesn't actually improve the process or, if it creates more work for me, then it is a waste.
Mike got me this little guy as a Christmas stocking stuffer last year, it is a "brown sugar bear". It is made from terra cotta and is about the size of a business card, I think it is adorable. You soak him in water before the first use and then you put him in your brown sugar container and it keeps the brown sugar from hardening. It works well! I haven't had a problem with my brown sugar since. This little gadget is cute and fun, but if you don't have one and your brown sugar hardens you can always just throw a piece of white bread in the container and let it sit overnight. It will soften right up. This trick also works with cookies that hardened because they were left out (it doesn't remove the stale taste on old cookies, sorry).

If you are interested in one you can find them almost anywhere that sells kitchen tools (like Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Target) they cost approx $3.50. I think they are cheaper if you buy them directly from the company that makes them. They come in different shapes, too: a maple leaf, an apple, a mouse, a bee, a chef, and a gingerbread man.

Soy Sauce Substitute

Friday, August 29, 2008

For Melissa and her great kids
I taste-tested several different recipes I found on the internet. The recipes I found were created in an attempt to cut the high sodium content out (very admirable). This recipe was the best tasting; believe me, I tried four and some of them were pretty bad. However, none that I tried really tasted like soy sauce. Soy sauce is basically salty so, let's face it, if you remove the salt you no longer have soy sauce. The beautiful thing is, if you are not trying to cut the salt just the allergens (like soy or wheat) you can add the salt back in and get a really good non-soy sauce! If you are going to do this, add Kosher salt in 1/4 tsp increments and taste-test. By the time I got to 1/2 tsp it was plenty salty for my taste.

1 cups
Start to Finish:
15 minutes
Recipe By:


4 TBSP beef bouillon
1 1/2 TBSP water
4 tsp balsamic vinegar You can substitute apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar has a more dynamic flavor for this recipe
2 tsp dark molasses
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp white pepper You can use black pepper, white pepper is simply more aromatic
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Clean glass jar and lid (I used an old spaghetti sauce jar, because that is what I had on hand. But if you get a soy sauce jar it will have the right kind of spout on it)


1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the beef bouillon, balsamic vinegar, molasses, ginger, white pepper, garlic powder and water.
2. Boil gently until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.
3. Pour into jar and refrigerate
4. Shake well before using, can store in refrigerator indefinitely

Sodium Information for Comparison
Kikkoman Soy Sauce --------------------------------------------------------920mg/TBSP
Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce -----------------------------------------575mg/TBSP
Soy Sauce Substitute Recipe ------------------------------------------------332mg/TBSP
Soy Sauce Substitute Recipe plus 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt --------------------392mg/TBSP

Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I love Chinese food! But when you buy it in a restaurant it can be heavy and greasy making it rather unhealthy for you. One of the incentives to cooking Chinese food yourself is because you can limit the amount of oil you use when cooking and still get the great flavors you love. Another way to make sure your family is eating well is to serve your food with steamed rice instead of fried rice. Note: To make it easier to slice the steak very thinly, place it in the freezer for 20 min, wrapped well in plastic.

4 (However, in our house it only serves 2, because Mike will eat several servings)
Start to Finish:
1 hour
Recipe by:
Martha Stewart Food Magazine


1 lb flank steak (cut diagonally, across the grain)
1 large head broccoli (steams trimmed, peeled, and cut)
1 TBSP cider vinegar
1 TBSP sugar try using brown sugar, too; for a subtle change in flavor
3 TBSP apple juice try using pineapple juice, too; for a subtle change in flavor
1/4 tsp pepper
1 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP peanut oil You can substitute Canola oil if you don't have peanut oil
3 TBSP light soy sauce
3 garlic cloves (minced)


1. Slice your flank steak in long, thin strips at a diagonal across the grain. Cutting your meat this way will improve tenderness because you are breaking up the fat marbling or "grains" in the meat. By making your cut at a 45 degree angle you are increasing the surface area of the meat, which is important for thin cuts of meat like a flank steak.
2. In a shallow Tupperware container, combine the cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, apple juice, pepper, and garlic cloves to make a marinade for you steak
3. Add the meat to your marinade and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes
4. Meanwhile, wash and chop your broccoli and ...
5. ...start steaming your rice. I usually use a rice cooker and about 2 cups of uncooked rice to feed 4 people.
Remove steak from fridge. Transfer meat to a plate and reserve your marinade
7. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat
8. In two or three batches cook steak until lightly browned, about 1 minute a side. This happens fast, do not walk away from your pan. Add meat, flip meat, set meat aside, repeat until all meat is cooked.
9. Remove meat, set aside, and keep warm
10. Add 1/2 cup of water to your pan to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of pan
11. Pour water and browned bits into your marinade Tupperware
12. Whisk cornstarch into your marinade.
13. In your pan, fry broccoli until bright green and crisp, tossing often. About 4 minutes. You don't need to add more oil here.
14. Add one cup of water to broccoli and cook until tender, about 6 minutes
15. Stir marinade mixture into broccoli and bring to a boil, stir until marinade thickens
16. Return steak to your pan, heat through
17. Serve over hot steamed rice

A week of food for only $45

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I found a great site I thought I would share. Assuming you own absolutely no food on your pantry shelves this menu will feed 4 people (6, if some of them are kids) for one week for only $45. That includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. The recipes are healthy and nutritious, although a little simple (what do you expect if you own nothing). It is a great idea for those weeks at the end of the month when you really have to stretch every dollar. The site is all-inclusive with a shopping list, prices, recipes, menu planner, etc... If you already have some of the items on the shopping list you can drop the price tag even more. If you are interested give it a quick read; you will be enlightened.

Nectarine Love

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I love summertime, when the fresh fruits you have been waiting for all winter are finally in season. I will walk through the market, inhaling the sweet smells and loading up my cart with one of everything I have been missing. I usually buy way too much and then, when I get home, I realize the only way to eat them all is to have just fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mike isn't sold on that idea. One fruit I am particularly drawn to is nectarines. They are my absolute favorite fruit of all time. They are sweet like strawberries, yet have a citrus zing like oranges. I love they way the juice burst in your mouth at the first bite. For me they embody everything good about summer days.

Nectarine Blueberry Buckle

This recipe is a delicious way to use up the fruit that is in your fridge before it over ripens. Other than your fresh fruit, all of the ingredients are staples in your cupboards so you won't need to buy something new just to use up what you have already bought. This recipe won a blue ribbon from the Taste of Home magazine, Light and Tasty. You can serve this cake with low-fat yogurt for a healthy treat.

Serves: 12 servings
Start to Finish:
Recipe By: Lisa Darling, Light and Tasty Magazine


1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 TBSP butter

6 TBSP butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 1 TBSP sugar, divided
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 pound medium nectarines, peeled, sliced and patted dry or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen unsweetened sliced peaches, thawed and patted dry
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup fresh blackberries


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 13-in x 9-in baking pan

For Topping:
2. Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon
3. Cut in butter until crumbly and set topping aside

For Batter:
4. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition
6. Add vanilla
7. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk
8. Set aside 3/4 cup batter
9. Fold blueberries into remaining batter
10. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9 pan
11. Arrange nectarines on top; sprinkle with remaining 1 TBSP sugar
12. Spoon remaining batter over nectarines
13. Sprinkle with raspberries, blackberries, and reserved topping
14. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm

Pecan-Crusted Chicken

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This meal is a good place to start for someone who is not confident with their cooking skills yet. The directions are straight-forward and uncomplicated. The crust give the chicken perfect color. And it is full of salty flavor. I like to serve this dish with a fettuccine alfredo. Molly Lloyd of Bainbridge, Ohio serves this dish at her catering company, the Belltower Mission. It is a nonprofit organization she started with the help of her family. All it's earnings go to charities or the community and they donate leftovers to meals for the elderly.

Serves: 4
Start to Finish: 40 minutes

Recipe By: Molly Lloyd, Taste of Home magazine


1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 TBSP sesame seeds
3/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, flattened
1 TBSP canola oil.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking pan large enough to hold your chicken.
2. Pour milk in a shallow bowl.
3. In another shallow bowl, combine flour, pecans, sesame seeds, paprika, pepper, and salt.
4. Dip the chicken in the milk, then coat in the flour mixture.
5. In a large non-stick skillet, brown the chicken in oil on both sides. Approx 3 min a side.
6. Transfer chicken to your greased baking pan.
7. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until juices run clear.

Flank Steak Roll-Up

All the wonderful Italian flavor of spaghetti, while being a little more grown up. This dish is another great choice for entertaining because the rolled flank steak makes such a pretty plate. Serve it with a hearty caesar salad and you are sure to have a dinner everyone will enjoy. As a kid, every time my mom cooked this meal I thought the tied flank steak looked like a huge sausage or wiener dog (which it totally does before it is cut). For those of you who have seen the movie "For Richer or Poorer" it reminds me of Kirstie Alley's line "Or better yet, I'll just eat this gigantic wiener", when she is served a sausage the size of a football. I am laughing now just thinking about it. Anyways it brings back lots of happy, funny memories.

Serves: 6
Start to Finish: maximum of 2 hours (depending on thickness of steak)
Recipe By: Virginia St. John


1 1/2 lb. flank steak
3 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
4 tsp basil
3 TBSP olive oil
1 (28-oz) can tomatoes Any kind of tomatoes stewed, chopped, diced, etc...
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 (12-oz) pkg broad egg noodles
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


1. Pound steak flat.
2. Spread one side of steak with butter; then sprinkle with thyme, sage, and basil.
3. Roll as a jellyroll and tie with string. I can never remember to buy string so I just stick a lot of toothpicks in mine and it works equally as well. They only thing you have to remember is to take them all out before you serve the steak or someone is going to be a winner.
4. In a large saucepan, brown rolled flank steak in hot oil.
5. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic.
6. Cover and simmer for a maximum 1 1/2 hours or until meat is cooked. If you have a fat roll it will cook the full time, if you have a skinner roll it will take less time, so check it often for doneness.
7. Remove garlic.
8. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water and drain.
9. Add parsley to noodles.
10. Take steak roll from sauce and remove string.
11. Slice 1/2" thick.
12. Arrange noodles on platter, place rolls on noodles, spoon sauce over and serve.

Food Storage 101

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I am one of those people who just does not understand food storage.  I am absolutely clueless about ALL of it.  I used to think the Bishop's Storehouse and the Cannery were the same thing (don't laugh).  I do, however, completely understand the need for food storage.  So you can see my dilemma. 

I know food storage is a common topic in church and many of you may be wondering why I am so lost with this plethora of information at my fingertips.  Think of it like this: if you were trying to explain quantum physics to the average person, no matter how dummy down you make it, if someone doesn't understand the basics, they are not going to get it.  I wonder if those ladies in Relief Society who talk about freeze-dried sour cream flakes think I have the vaguest idea about what that means, how it relates, or why I would want them.  Do they assume everyone learns the "basics of canning" as a child, helping their moms?  Because that's never something my mom did with me.

So, I have set out on a quest to educate myself (and, hopefully my children) on what we need to do to be prepared.  I am learning so many things and I thought I would post regular blogs about the steps I have made. This way anyone else out there who needs a "Food Storage for Idiots" book can learn something, too.  (If you've had any epiphanies about the BASICS of food storage I would love to hear your comments)

Here is what I know so far:
  1. The Cannery is not the Bishop's Storehouse.  The Cannery provides food supplies for the Bishop's Storehouse.  The Cannery can also be used by individuals to create their personal food storage.  (I do not know what a cannery looks like or what is in one)
  2. If you don't live in Utah you may not have a cannery near your home.  For the location of your nearest cannery click here
  3. Many stakes purchase canning machines for their members to "check out" like a library system (I don't know how a canning machine works or exactly what you can do with it)
  4. The LDS website has a calculator that will tell you how much grain and legumes you need to store depending on your family size.  It also mentions that you will need to store other things like sugar, but it doesn't tell you how much. (Other things, very vague, can I get a list of all the other things
  5. If you have the money ($6,000), you can buy a pre-made, all-the-work-done-for-you, color-coded, complete family-of-five food storage for a year
The questions I hope to answer next:
  1. What does a Cannery look like
  2. How does a canning machine work
  3. Is the Cannery the same as the Home Storage Center
  4. What are the other things I need to store 
websites I have found to be helpful: 
Buy food storage and organizer online
Much more detailed food calculator

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

Sunday, August 3, 2008

This recipe is an easy spin on classic flavors. It only takes about 15 minutes to prepare everything and the rest is baking time. I love to cook with pork chops because they are usually a very clean cut of meat and come in perfectly portioned pieces. It is a healthier protein source than red meat but breaks up the monotony of chicken. Helpful hint: make sure your oil is hot enough before you put your pork chops in or they will not brown up the way you want them to and you will just end up cooking them on the stove top.

Serves: 4
Start to Finish: 60 minutes
Recipe by: Taste of Home Magazine


4 boneless pork chop loins
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 (6-oz) pkg crushed stuffing mix (you also need butter for making the stuffing)
1 (21-oz) can apple pie filling with cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat; until it crackles when water is dropped into it
3. When your oil is ready, brown the pork chops (only 5 minutes a side) you do not need to cook them through at this point this is just to give them color
4. Meanwhile, prepare stuffing according to package directions
5. Spread pie filling into a greased 8-x 8-in baking dish.
6. Place the pork chops on top of the apples, spoon stuffing over the pork chops
7. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes
8. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer read 160 degrees.

What Kind of Dessert are You?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Melissa had a Superheroine one of these on her blog and I thought it was really fun so I checked out the website. This one is about what kind of dessert you would be. My results were Strawberries and Cream, yummmmm!

You Are Strawberries with Cream

Fresh and uncomplicated, you are always enjoyed but often overlooked.
You're confident in who you are. You don't need a facade to feel better about yourself.