Gadgets & Gizmos

Let’s See if We Can Keep Our Resolutions Until March!

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Posted January 6th, 2012 in Gadgets & Gizmos, Healthy Eating, Healthy Tips

I was working out with my personal trainer at the gym today (I am SUCH a New Year’s cliché!).  He told me that most people drop their gym memberships purchased in January, by Valentine’s Day.  I am determined not to be one of those people so I have signed up for several runs of increasing lengths leading up to a couple of sprint triathlons this summer.  I am only sharing this with you, the Oregon Fruit faithful because in this same conversation, my trainer and I discussed nutrition in some depth.  We talked about the benefits of eating more small meals and snacks as opposed to the typical American way-3 large portioned meals and long periods of starvation leading to grabbing something bad for us on the run.

Last year I made a real effort to incorporate more fruits and vegetables and I was largely successful.  Some ways I accomplished this was to add them in as snacks-killing two birds with one stone. One of my favorites is take a can of Oregon Fruit Blueberries, drained. Blend it with a cup of non fat Greek yogurt and a half a frozen banana. If you have a handful of spinach, throw it in. If you have some leftover steamed vegetables like green beans, carrots or beets throw them in or add some green grapes or an apple that has become a bit soft.   In this form you will get up to 23grams of protein and several servings of fruits and vegetables but the vegetables are largely hidden.  You can have this mid afternoon or in the evening after dinner. It also makes a great breakfast. Put it in one of those insulated cups with a lid and a straw and take it with you on the run.

Another important dietary need is fiber and a great place to get it is popcorn.  Popcorn is a whole grain and is gluten free. During our annual neighborhood Christmas dinner several of my friends raved about a new kitchen gadget called “Whirley Pop”.  I was pretty skeptical because I eat popcorn almost every night and I was pretty attached to my 94% fat free microwave, portion controlled popcorn. I am aware that there are chemicals and it tastes kind of fake but I couldn’t imagine freshly made popcorn without butter would be any good at all. I was so wrong. This gadget makes DELCIOUS popcorn. I use a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  It smells like a movie theatre, tastes delicious, and there is nothing fake about it.  I use this new gadget literally everyday!

So for 2012 I am going to stick with my trainer and try to beat the average length of a New Year’s resolution.


Baking with Love and/or Precision???

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Posted August 12th, 2011 in Gadgets & Gizmos, In the Kitchen, Posts

I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember.  I have a distinct memory of standing on a step stool at my Yiayia’s  (Greek for Grandma) stove and watching her make her famous Giouvarlaki (meatball soup). She didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak Greek so I always heard “You better like it!” when she told me the name of the dish.  It didn’t really sound as threatening when she said it as it does in print.  Her cooking was all LOVE!  This is the way I learned to cook. She had a teaspoon from the silverware drawer that she used as the “little spoonful” and a big serving spoon that she used as “the big spoonful”.  There was a tiny wine glass as her main liquid measure (I have those glasses now).   My own mom is ALWAYS in the kitchen. When I think of her that is where I picture her. Even at 85 she will spend all day making food for just my dad and herself.  It is and has always been her therapy. I think I got that from her.

Recently we took a food tour in my home town of Sacramento.  We visited a local Mexican Restaurant 524  that has been in the same spot since the 1950′s.  The owner told the story of a long time cook that would hide his “measuring” spoon when he was going to have a day off so no one could duplicate his recipes exactly. This was his job security and it served him well for decades. 

On my recent visit to New Mexico,  Ben White Buffalo who owns the  Tiwa Kitchen and Bakery in Taos  told us that his mother made the most amazing hand pies with local wild fruit.  She gave her recipe to her sons and daughters-in-law but they could never quite get the exact texture of the dough.  Near the end of her life, they caught her sneaking in an extra handful of flour which proved to be the secret.  I ate one of those pies and I can attest that they have it right!

On the same trip, Kaitlin, my mom and I went to the Santa Fe Cooking School for a class on traditional New Mexican Cooking. Chef Deena Chafetz did an amazing  job with this food. We were inspired to purchase ingredients to bring home and try our hand at the amazing Carne Adovada and Sopaipillas with spiced honey that she demonstrated. But more than the food, we took away her philosophy: “Angry chefs make angry food” or conversely, the secret ingredient is always love.

But…reading food blogs and watching food tv I have begun to feel a bit insecure about my baking style.  Professional bakers say that baking is precise, more science than food. It is about the chemical reaction that takes place when you precisely combine baking powder, baking soda, sugar, flour and salt. 

SO I have become intimidated enough to add to my kitchen gadgetry.  I purchased a digital food scale the other day.  After reading my friend Kimberly on Poor Girl Eats Well for a while I was determined to find a bargain scale and was unwilling to spend the big bucks at a fancy cooking store. (I am saving for a great knife!).  I found the perfect tool at Home Goods! It is a measuring cup with the digital screen on the handle.  I am excited to try my hand at those Native American hand pies so you can bet they will show up here soon, maybe next week!

Charcoal, Propane, Smoke…Oh MY!

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Posted July 1st, 2011 in Gadgets & Gizmos, Holiday, Posts

This weekend is 4th of July so we HAVE to talk about grillin’. Every man I have ever known was pretty opinionated on this subject except my dad. He would rather not grill. Too much pressure. He is not much of a cook and has been fed quite well by my mother for nearly 60 years thank you very much.  My brother, on the other hand, is a grill aficionado.  I think he even put an indoor grill in the house he built in Seattle. He has rusted his share of Webers cooking outside in the Northwest rain. My ex-husband has been known to use the charcoal AND the propane grills for the same meal insisting that  they serve different culinary purposes.  My brother- in- law was pretty famous for the smoked turkey on Thanksgiving. He built a pretty state of the art smoker in his backyard until my sister made him dismantle it for space reasons. 

I am a pretty good griller for a girl.  When my kids were little we had a really big charcoal grill on wheels called the “Rolls Roaster”. Our neighborhood had a block party for every excuse and we rolled that roaster out to the street for years. Later I swore by a Weber charcoal grill insisting that the tase of meat grilled  over charcoal was infinitely better than gas.  I wouldn’t use lighter fluid either, I had the chimney with the newspaper (that’s me trying to be green). 

About five years ago I broke down and bought myself a gas grill and it has literally changed my life. I grill many times per week and the only bummer is when you leave the propane open after grilling a single ear of corn and the next time you try to grill you realize it was a $20 ear of corn.  

So my tip for the 4th is this:  Grill!

Whatever way you choose, just remember to turn off the propane and keep the little ones away from the flame.

I’ll be making my famous Raspberry Chipotle Ribs for my new neighborhood 4th of July bash!

Best Cookbooks for Baking Fanatics

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Posted February 4th, 2011 in Gadgets & Gizmos

Are you a food fanatic looking for the best cookbook ideas? Even though food blogs are on the rise, cookbooks still seem to be a popular method for finding delicious new recipes. On there are new cookbooks released almost daily, and they cover everything from gluten free meal ideas to cooking for your blood type.

Since I know many of you love to bake, I thought I’d post a few of the best cookbooks for people who love to bake.

The first cookbook is called Bake Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. The photography in this book is beautifully original, and the recipes equally as good. It can be purchased for $17.48 on Amazon. The above picture is from Bake Explorations and features whoopie pies which I’ll talk about later in this post.

Another popular book right now is called Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats. This book is produced by Bakerella, a popular blog that offers adorable pictures and tutorials on how to create cake pops. They are perfect for showers, wedding favors and gifts. $10.56 on Amazon.

Newspapers and blogs across the country say that 2011 is the Year of the Pie. For that reason, I just had to include a link to Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies. This books has tons and tons of pie recipes including Damson Plum Pie, Grasshopper Pie and Brownie Pie.  You can purchase it for $11.55 on Amazon.

Another “pie” trend right now are Whoopie Pies. You might want to check-out Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix ‘em, Match ‘em and Eat ‘em Up Recipes. I like this book because, as the title says, you can mix and match the cakes and fillings to create a pie unique to your tastes. I didn’t see any fillings that could incorporate Oregon Canned Fruit so maybe I’ll try to whip up my own! This book is $10.39 on Amazon.

Finally, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I have two food inspired books you could curl up with next to the fire.  As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto ($15.90 on Amazon) was released in December and features a collection of the correspondence between Child and her pen pal, Avis DeVoto.

If you love the “letter” style of the above book, you’ll probably also appreciate The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, “a poignant, funny novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit…. This one is a treat.”—Boston Globe. This New York Times Bestseller weaves together history, friendship and food and makes for a quick, memorable read. $8.36 on Amazon.

Don’t forget- I’m giving away an Amazon gift card every week just for leaving a comment on our Facebook page. Make sure you pay attention on Tuesdays so you don’t miss an opportunity to win!

How to Sharpen Knives

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Posted January 20th, 2011 in Gadgets & Gizmos

Today’s post is all about how to sharpen knives. One of the  best kitchen tools you can invest in is a set of very sharp knives. Once you’ve invested the money, it’s important to keep the knives sharp so they’ll continue to perform well.

Over the holidays my family had a long discussion about choosing the proper set of knives and how to sharpen them. I learned so much I thought I’d pass along the valuable wisdom.

Rule #1: Buy the very best set of knives you can afford and keep them sharp. A great resource for deciding which knives to buy is this article titled Best Kitchen Knives On Any Budget. Whether you can spend $50, $100, or even $300- this article offers options. I own Cutco knives because they’re guaranteed for life. I even sent mine back once when there was a problem and got them replaced.

Rule #2:  Invest in a sharpener. The Chef’s Choice M130 Professional Sharpening Station is expensive but worth the investment. It creates the perfect angle and works on Japanese knives as well as all American even serrated. You can keep your knives sharp with this tool; then run the knives over a Chantry Steel before using.

Now, obviously, sharp knives aren’t necessary for cutting up Oregon Canned Fruit. But, there are plenty of other recipes which need a sharp knife like pork chops with cherry sauce or raspberry chipotle ribs.

I want to know what types of knives you use? Do you favor a particular brand? Please leave a comment with your suggestions for other readers.

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