14 Silly Kitchen Gadgets

What are gadgets? While the terms gadget, utensil, tool and appliance tend to be used interchangeably, especially in advertising, gadgets are contraptions that are used for a specific purpose. It turns out that Americans are quite fond of our contraptions — to the tune of more than 1 billion dollars a year in sales. It’s no wonder that manufacturers, inventors, marketers and retailers are constantly on the hunt for new, unique gizmos to put on the market.

Some are great (where would we be without our vegetable peeler?) but I feel like the list of silly kitchen gadgets grows by leaps and bounds every year.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Just plain Silliness

The Melty Butter Knife

This is a product that promises to make spreading cold butter a breeze! It claims to use “heat conducting technology” that transfers the heat from your hand to warm the knife.

Unfortunately, a full 27% of Amazon users were not impressed, claiming that it did not work as advertised, while another 14% felt it was just ho-hum. On the flip side, almost 60% of users gave it a 4-5 star rating, stating, for the record, that was a fantastic little knife. Do you suppose this is a case of “cold hands, cold butter”?

I’ll just soften my butter out on the counter for a few minutes before I use it and save myself $19.95.

A Hot Glue Gun. For Cheese

It’s said to have a “proprietary cheese propulsion valve” that allows “complete control of cheese”. I’m sorry…what? Not only was I completely unable to type that with a straight face, I don’t even know what it means.

A full 66% of Amazon users gave this puppy a 4-5 star rating with comments that ask, “who’s ever had this much fun with their food?” and that it “perfectly squirts hot melted cheese”. It was even called the “perfect family activity” but I really had to struggle to find a user who had an actual use for it. One user built a house for her sons’ Legos out of cheese and crackers while another constructed an entire log cabin village in his room from pretzels and cheese. One even spoke of the very real prospect of Sunday morning cheese-wars.

Did the 1-3 star naysayers point to the absurdity of this product? The $50 price tag? Incredibly, their chief complaint was that it’s difficult to clean.

Perhaps it’s me, maybe I’m just not a fun person. And please don’t try to prove me wrong by inviting me to your next cheese and potato chip crafting party. I’m busy that day.

 

Trongs Prep and Eating Utensil

Translation: Little claws for your fingers so you never, ever have to come into contact with the food you’re eating. Of the 70% of Amazon users who thought they were aaaa-maaa-zing!, the comment I enjoyed most was the gal who used them “ because my work was having a hot wings potluck and I did not want to deal with a messy keyboard”. Because your work doesn’t have soap and water? I think there are bigger fish to fry there….

Not my cup of tea, but if you like ‘em, I’ve got a tip for you. The two pair pack has a cost of $49.31 but if you buy in bulk, you’ll get 6 pairs for $14.95. The company claims this is due to shipping costs. Let that sink in for a minute…

Square Egg Press — Because It’s Cool To Be Square

90% of users gave this gadget a 4-5 star rating, mostly because it’s “neat”, “cool” and “quirky”. One lady uses it because her eggs will stay put on the dashboard during tractor pulls.

Another user pointed out its usefulness for deviled eggs and, OK, I get that but the device seems labor intensive and time-consuming. It involves freezing the container for 20 minutes, peeling a hot hard-boiled egg, inserting it into the container and dropping it in ice water for 5 minutes. This is for each egg.

I guess you could drop $35.70 to get a 6-pack of these babies or take the long-winded advice from users who have put together assembly line instructions to make the most of their time in the kitchen.

It just feels to me like the reviewers here are trying to justify spending their hard-earned dollars on a device that will astound the ladies at the church picnic or convince their kids that they got eggs from a square chicken one time at the most.

Egg-A-Matic Skull Egg Mold

Oh, but wait! Here’s one for Halloween eggs!. His name is Fred. I’ll be if we look hard enough, we can find one for every holiday. If you think your friends would be impressed with square eggs, think of the hero worship you would receive if you could show up with seasonally themed eggs all year ‘round!

 

The Grate Taco Cheese Shredder

The maker of this taco shaped cheese shredder claims that you’ll want to make every day Taco Tuesday with this nifty grater that keeps your cheese “neatly contained until you’re ready to aim it at your enchilada”. That doesn’t even make sense considering that you must turn this “taco” upside down to grate which lets the cheese fall freely out of the top (or is it the bottom?). With both ends open, I can’t imagine that it “contains” anything.

It would appear that I’m not alone. 7 of the 10 people who reviewed this product were compensated for their views and it still only got a 3 star rating.

Mildly disturbing

Bogeyman Egg Separator

This ceramic cup of repugnance is marketed as an egg separator but that doesn’t seem to be it’s main purpose. Why? Because it just doesn’t work. There seems to be a consensus that the holes are too small to be effective. Apparently, the whites just hang there like…well…boogers.

Even many of the almost 80% of people who rated it highly admit that they bought it for the shock value or collectibility of the item, not as a kitchen aid.

 

Condiment Dispenser Bottle Gun

This nifty picnic firearm comes with two refillable cartridges and a stopper to avoid accidental discharge (and presumed injury). On the off chance you should not consider this a gravely serious weapon of the highest caliber, the company is quick to warn you that this is not a toy, it should not be fired at the face or body of anything (man or beast) and it’s not suitable for children under 12 years old. I wonder if I would need a concealed carry permit to put this in my picnic basket?

The yayers and nayers are about equally split on this product. The nayers claim that it’s cheap and doesn’t work as advertised, although one user was quick to recommend that a Condiments Firearms Safety Course might be helpful.

The fans tell us that it’s a hit at parties and is especially fun for the under 12 set (the ones for whom this sidearm is deemed not appropriate).

As for me? I’ll keep that $21.95 right in my pocket. I couldn’t live with myself if someone were wounded on my watch.

 

Sir Perky Novelty Condiment Bottle Topper

This little guy lays his…ummm…below the belly button area across the top of your condiment bottle and when you’re ready (because this is all about what you want), he will release a liquid stream from his backside onto your sandwich. The advertiser recommends that you use protection and enjoy responsibly.

Sir Perky is also happy to stop up your wine bottle and hold your toilet paper.

Over 70% of reviewers have taken pleasure in spending quality time with this little guy but I don’t know, man. He seems like a creep to me.

Sir Perky…back away from my mustard.

Gone Dark Side

Spartan Knife Set

Canadian Philosopher Matshona Dhliwayo once said, “A warrior proves his courage in the heat of battle.” I guess there’s no way to know how this battle ended but about 80% of reviewers seemed to think it was a win as they got to keep the knives

 

Voodoo Doll Knife Holder

Nothing says, “Thinking of You” like this voodoo knife holder, especially when the knives themselves are made from Premium Stabbing Stainless Steel. While most reviewers thought this was a great conversation piece, others returned it for being creepy or because the humanoid is made from plastic.

And, yes, he was referred to as a “humanoid”. It’s like they’re pretending he’s not a person.

Honorable Mention

Monkey Peeler

A little pricey at $13.58 but there’s nothing really wrong with this one. It’s just that I saw the title and thought (in horror), “Who would peel a monkey?!?!” I decided to throw it in here to see if anyone else had the same reaction. Anybody? No?

So There You Have It…

…the silliest kitchen gadgets I could come up with. What do you think? Would you buy any of these? Why or why not? What’s the silliest kitchen gadget you couldn’t live without?

Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Easy Classic Deviled Eggs

Easy Classic Deviled Eggs

(Courtesy: Suzanne M. Woodworth)

3 eggs

4 tsp mayonnaise

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp honey

Paprika (optional)

Put eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Cover pan and bring water to boil. Remove from heat and let the pan sit, still covered, for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, drain hot water from the pan and fill with cold water and ice to cool. Peel eggs.

Cut each egg in half lengthwise and gently squeeze white to pop yolks out into a small bowl.

Mix mayonnaise, mustard and honey with yolks and scoop back into whites. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired

3 servings, 125 calories per serving

Hack: Hard boiled eggs keep in the refrigerator for one week so consider making a few extra while you’ve got the water boiling! They make a great snack alone, pickled or in egg salad.

 

 

Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

 

Blue Cheese Dressing

 

3 oz blue cheese, crumbled

3 tbls milk or buttermilk

2 tbls sour cream

1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)

1 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp ground mustard

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

 

Whisk together blue cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, mustard powder, and salt. Use an immersion blender if a smoother dressing is desired.

Allow to sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Dressing will thicken as it sits.

Store leftovers, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

4 servings, 118 calories per serving

Hack: Many grocery store delis cut and wrap blue cheese for the shelf. If you can’t find the size you’re looking for, ask a clerk to cut it for you.

Hack: Blue cheese can be frozen but it will lose some of its creaminess and flavor.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

 

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

(Courtesy: Amanda Buswell)

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (6 oz)

2 tbls cream cheese (1 oz)

3 tbls shredded cheddar cheese

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 slices bacon

Preheat the oven to 375℉.

Place the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and jalapenos in a bowl; stir to combine.

Cut a deep pocket into the chicken breast, taking care not to cut all the way through to the other side. Fill the pocket of chicken breast with the cream cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Wrap chicken breast tightly with bacon and place in a greased baking pan.

Cook for 30 minutes, or until bacon is crisp and chicken has an internal temperature of 160℉. You can broil the chicken for 3-4 minutes to further crisp the bacon if needed.

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

1 serving, 556 calories

 

 

The 7 Best Ways To Be Healthy — Without Really Trying

Throughout history, the human race has always been known for our desire for a quick fix, our tendency to leap before we look. Unfortunately, there have also always been people who are perfectly happy to take advantage of that inclination, often with tragic results.

If we’re lucky, the tragedy we suffer is to our wallet but, far too often, the damage comes at the expense of our physical or emotional well being.

I’ve compiled a short list of trickster scams that have taken place in the past. Some are silly and others decidedly dark but all appear to be designed by con artists intent on separating John Q. Public from his hard earned dollar.

So light up your chamomile candle, pour yourself a glass of something green and enjoy these 7 best ways to be healthy — without really trying.

Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit

Candian salesman Charles E Fulford invented a product called Bile Beans to cure the condition of “biliousness” which was (apparently) caused by over consumption and high living.  So, instead of cutting back on rich, fatty meals, it was possible to solve the problem with these coated pills made from laxatives, menthol and licorice.  It was later touted as a cure for influenza and headaches.  Amazingly, this product continued to be sold through the 1980s.

Charles came up with the idea in the 1890’s when he was in Australia hawking a newly patented medicine invented by his uncle–Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.  Made from iron sulphate and Epsom salts, they claimed to cure pale and sallow complexions, as well as  rheumatism, nervous headache and heart palpitations.  I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Another Round Of Radium, Anyone?

Radium was discovered by Pierre and Marie Curie in 1898.  Shortly after, an entrepreneur by the name of William J. A. Bailey (who possessed zero medical or scientific degrees) sold America on the idea that it was a cure for, well, just about anything.  Radium infused lotions, blankets, suppositories and even injections were marketed with vague claims of aiding in the improvement of bodily health, manly courage, vigor, joyous vitality and female troubles.

In 1925, what might be the first energy drink was marketed.  Radithor was sold in 2-oz bottles and claimed to contain triple distilled water instilled at least 1 microcurie each of the radium 226 and 228 isotopes.  It was marketed as “Pure Sunshine In A Bottle”. This product finally came off the market in 1931 after the high-profile death of industrialist Eben Byers from radiation poisoning after consuming the drink daily for 2 ½ years. 

Please Pass The Grass

These days wheatgrass claims to be a superfood with all kinds of benefits such as lowering your blood pressure, stabilize blood sugars, improve cognitive function and boost your immune system.  The idea of wheatgrass being the holy grail of natural medicine was the brainchild of Ann Wigmore. Born in 1909, she was raised by her grandmother, a self-taught naturalist, who restored Ann’s health after beginning life as a sickly baby.  At some point, Ann began to believe that grass and weeds was the path to good health. She even credited eating grass for healing her two broken and gangrenous legs after a car crash when she was 18.

Soon enough, she began to refer to herself as Reverend Ann Wigmore and preaching that grass and weeds were the manna referred to in the bible. She opened the Hippocrates Health Institute to promote the controversial claims that grass and weeds could cure everything from cancer to AIDS.  Despite having no science to back up her claims and having been sued twice, her institute (now renamed Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute) continues to operate,  bringing in a net profit of over a million dollars in 2019, all of which is tax exempt due to their non-profit status.

Honorable Mention

In the early 1900’s, La Parle Obesity Soap promised to wash away fat, tone skin and firm up flabby muscles “without dieting or gymnastics”.  Turns out it was just soap.

The Molby Revolving Hammock claimed that laying facedown on their hammock was the secret to a long life, health and vitality.  “All the keen relish of a healthful existence comes to the man or woman whose spine is straight, strong and supple, with no tension on the sympathetic nervous system and with every spinal nerve relaxed.”

Upton Sinclair wrote “The Fasting Cure” in 1898, which promoted fasting as a healthy practice to improve health and cure disease.  Fasting has been promoted throughout history as a beneficial practice and still continues to have its advocates even today. The problem with Sinclairs fasting ideas?  He claimed that fasting for 40-50 days uninterrupted could cure tuberculosis, syphilis, epilepsy, heart disease and cancer, among other ailments. And, no, he wasn’t a doctor.  He didn’t even play one on TV.

In the 1950s came the canned soup casserole craze. Mix any kind of canned soup with any meat and any kind of canned vegetable.  Crumble some potato chips on top and bake it until it looks like something you’d want to eat. Who wants to waste time in the kitchen when you could be watching TV?

Do Me A Favor

We’re fortunate in this day and age that we have ability to investigate the many miraculous claims that seem to come at us a mile a minute.  We literally have the information at our fingertips so do me a favor, would you?

As good as it sounds, take a minute to investigate before you dive into any new thing.  No, not just foods or health gadgets but anything that seems too good to be true. Keep in mind that there’s never a hurry.

Only six left?  Trust me, they’ll make more.  (Unless it’s a dud and then you can be thankful you didn’t waste your money!).  Offer only good for the next 15 minutes? Check in 14 minutes and I’ll bet you’ll still have 15 minutes. And why would they give you 15 minutes to make a decision?

Who does this?  Shysters, of course.  Shysters do this.

Anyone with a great product to offer welcomes the feedback you’re likely to find if you search it so give them the opportunity to show you what they’re the real deal.

What about you?  What “deals” have you seen or fallen for in the past?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

17 Essential Kitchen Tools That Won’t Break Your Budget

It’s no secret that I love to cook. I think the reason that some people shy away from it is that they don’t have the proper tools and that makes the job hard and the outcome uncertain.

But let’s say that you decide to give it a go. If you watch cooking shows or hit up a kitchen supply store, it’s likely that you’ll be presented with a plethora of great gadgets for every purpose under the sun. They’re all pretty, clever and cute items that insist you NEED them in your kitchen. Anybody want to shell out $20 (each) for a butter warming knife, cheese gun or garlic roaster? $30 for a breakfast sandwich maker? How about $15 for some finger tongs so you don’t have to actually touch the food you’re eating?

This just makes me chuckle. I have a kitchen full of very basic and inexpensive tools that I use all the time so stash your credit card for just a sec while I show how economical it can be to outfit your kitchen with my list of 17 essential kitchen tools.

Take Time To Appreciate The Little Things

These are the true unsung heroes of the kitchen! Every single one is under $20 (most are under $15) and they make everything run more smoothly.

                                        Linden Sweden Original Jonas Vegetable Peeler

Call me crazy but this is my favorite vegetable peeler. It’s simple and basic but has many uses. Peeling fruits and vegetables, of course, but also use it to shave chocolate, Parmesan or soap, peel the zest off citrus fruits and destring celery.

Any peeler can do all that but the reason I stick with this particular style is that of the pointy end. Use it to dig out potato eyes and bruised spots or hull strawberries. After cutting the top off a pepper, you can easily slide the end of this peeler inside to remove the seeds and pith while leaving the pepper intact, which is especially useful for smaller peppers such as jalapeño.

                                        MSC Joie Slicey, Egg Slicer

I know a lot of you will disagree with me about this one. I’ve even seen plenty of articles that mock this item as a waste of money and space but I do not care. Trying to hang onto that slippery egg to cut it into any sort of uniform shape adds unnecessary stress to my life.

With this handy-dandy egg cutter you just pop it on and lower the lid, using the stainless steel wires to cut through the hard-boiled egg. A quick 90° rotation and one more snap of the cover will give you perfect, tiny, egg squares that you can simply dump into the bowl straight from the cutter. And it just rinses clean.

 

Joie Roundy Silicone Egg Ring

I love egg sandwiches and make them in dozens of combinations. These little egg rings make perfect egg rounds to fit on an English muffin, bagel or biscuit. The silicone design makes a tight seal to the pan to prevent leakage and will not scratch. When the egg is cooked, you can pick the ring up by it’s little head without the fear of heat transference. And it matches my egg cutter. That counts as coordinating my kitchen, right?

                                                     4” x 1.75” Heavy Gauge Stainless Steel Round Cake Mold/Pastry Ring

Despite the name, I don’t ever use these to make cakes or pastries (although you certainly could!) I use them for making sandwich rolls from homemade bread dough. I originally got them to make brioche rolls (which has thinner dough and actually does need a mold) but now I use them for shaping whatever breads I make. The rolls come out perfectly shaped and in matching portions, which is something I’m never able to achieve when shaping rolls by hand.

I did learn that the rings should be greased well before each use (I use cooking spray) to avoid sticking. I portion my dough out into 8 rings per loaf sized dough ball on the final rise but you could make more or fewer rolls as you see fit. When they’re done baking, I simply use kitchen tongs to lift the rings off the (perfectly shaped and totally even) rolls.

Side note: The reason I make rolls, not loaves, is that I’m single and would never use a whole loaf of bread before it goes stale. I can freeze rolls for up to six months AND I can make a variety of different flavors to have on hand.

These rings are also a perfect size for cutting pastry to line a standard muffin tin. This comes in handy when making recipes like Mini Pork Pies or Chicken Pot Pie.

                                                     Homwe Silicone Oven Mitts and Potholders

These are far superior to quilted oven mitts or potholders. They can withstand much higher heats without it penetrating through to your hands and they don’t wear thin like the quilted ones do. You can use either the mitt or potholder to protect counter tops when setting down hot items.

I do have one caveat, however. There’s definitely a learning curve as these do not flex or mold to surfaces as well as cloth. I recommend some practice runs before attempting to pull a hot pan out of the oven!

              Original Popco Silicone Tipped Tongs

I have this exact set and I love them! These tongs are made from 1mm stainless steel which makes them sturdy without being too cumbersome. They have a unique pull ring on the top to ensure that your tongs will never be locked closed when you want them opened and vice versa. The best part is the silicone tips and grips which provide a non-slip surface for your fingers and the item you’re picking up.whether it be a delicate wonton or one of the heavy gauge steel molds I mentioned above.

                                  Farberware Colourworks 3-Piece Grater Set

This colorful grater set makes short work of anything you have to grate. I find that the 13” length makes it easy to use when grating or zesting. It comes with 3 separate graters (held together with a silicone band) which will ensure you have the right size for any job!

Prepworks Adjust-A-Slice Mandoline

Use this once and you’ll never look back! It makes prep work ridiculously easy and mess free. It has three thicknesses for perfectly even and precise slices everytime!

The non-skid base and ridges allow you to put this right on top of a bowl or (cool) pan and drop all the ingredients right where they need to be.

Non-slip Silicone Pastry Mat

This just makes my life easier. I like the fact that it contains the mess when I’m working with dough (just pick it up and dump the “remains” in the trash!). It’s easy to peel your pastry off, takes the guesswork out of measuring it to fit in a pan and cleans up easily.

Because it’s silicone, it also doubles as a baking sheet and oven liner which is a great way to reduce one-use items such as parchment paper and aluminum foil. It won’t be long before you recoup your cost by reducing your purchase of throw away kitchen lining products!

                                 Extra Large Organic Bamboo Cutting Board

I love this gigantic 18” x 12” board because it’s big enough for any job. It’s easier on your knives than plastic and, because bamboo is a grass, it’s more sustainable than wood.

 

Feel The Power!

Time to get plugged in with some awesome electric appliances. Again, I’ve listed the less expensive, basic models here but they do the job as advertised!

       Black and Decker Mini Food Chopper

This gem is great for chopping just about anything. I’ve had mine for well over 20 years (yes, this exact brand) and I use it all the time. It’s especially handy chopping onions into little tiny pieces to hide in food, (Don’t tell my kids ;-)) but it can also be used for any vegetable, nuts, salsa, salad dressing, herbs, bread or cracker crumbs. The pulsing action gives you plenty of control while the bi-level stainless steel blades stay sharp, providing long-lasting performance.

                                                 10 speed Black + Decker Countertop Blender with Glass Jar

I know there are fancier models out there but I have this basic blender in my kitchen. There’s a very real possibility that I just don’t know what I’m missing but this baby has always done everything I’ve asked of it. Smoothies, salad dressings, sauces, shredding cooked meat, ricing cauliflower and broccoli. I like the glass jar because it won’t get scratched or hold flavors.

                                                KitchenAid Artisan Series 5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

I finally got a Kitchenaid Mixer when a total stranger gave it to me at his company Christmas party. (He had won it) While I’d love to give this a rom-com ending and say we lived happily ever after, it ain’t true. I never saw him again. I’m happy to report, however, that my kitchenaid and I have never had a cross word between us!

I love this thing so much I could write a whole article about it. Oh, wait…I did!! Take a gander at this to find out why I would never use another mixer

                                             Aroma 8 Cup Rice Cooker

Yes, it cooks rice. But if you mix some cubed meat and chopped up veggies in with the rice and water, you have a delicious one pot meal in less than 30 minutes! Suspend food in the steamer rack to cook separately (with or without rice on the bottom). It will even keep your meal warm until you’re ready to eat.

It makes oatmeal, mac and cheese, soups, chili and stewed fruit. You can even use it to bake bread and cakes. An important feature to me is that it’s compact, easy to use and easy to clean.

Thermometers

I’ve saved the most important for last. What good is having all the oven mentioned tools if your food is not cooked to perfection? If you want to know when something is done, a thermometer will never do you wrong.

I think we all know that meat and poultry should be cooked to a certain temperature but when was the last time you took that leftover lasagna out of the microwave and sat down to have a good nosh only to find out it was still cold in the middle? A perfectly heated (or reheated) food should read 160℉ so next time stick a thermometer in it!

What about baked goods? Sure you can jiggle your puddings and poke your cake but did you know that you can have a better gauge by using a thermometer? Bread comes out of the oven at 190℉, while cake prefers to be around 205℉.

Bonus? Every single one is under $10.

                                                 Rubbermaid Commercial Products Food/Meat Instant Read Pocket SizeThermometer

This is a nice, light thermometer that can be used to monitor smaller or more delicate items such as bread, cake or meatballs. It’s dishwasher safe and the stainless steel construction ensures that it will last for years to come. It can even be calibrated! I’ve used this kind of thermometer in an industrial setting so I know that it will hold up for years!

                                            SimpleKitchen Large Face Roasting Meat Thermometer

I like this one for larger items as well as meat and poultry.  I like that the recommended temperatures are right on the face and moveable target temperature indicator can be placed at the desired temperature so I can easily know when the item is ready to be removed from the oven.  I have not had good luck with putting these in the dishwasher as the steam penetrates the housing and the resulting condensation makes the face hard to read.

                                       Rubbermaid Commercial Products Stainless Steel Instant Read Oven/Grill/Smoker Monitoring Thermometer

I hate it when the bottoms of my biscuits burn before the tops brown!  Since I’ve placed one of these in my oven it’s never happened again.

 

 

Let The Adventure Begin!

I know you’re want to get busy outfitting your kitchen. I just wanted to take a minute to let you know that I use every single one of these items on a daily basis so I can vouch for how valuable they are.

What’s your favorite unsung kitchen hero?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

Chicken Stir Fry

 

Chicken Stir Fry
(Courtesy Yuhong Sun)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thin

1 egg

1 tbls soy sauce

1 tbls cornstarch

3 thin slices ginger root

5 tbls vegetable oil, divided

½ onion, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

Salt to taste

2 cups cooked rice

Sauce:

1 tbls chopped ginger

3 cloves chopped garlic (3 teaspoons)

2 scallions, thinly sliced

¼ cup soy sauce

½ teaspoon brown sugar

Chili oil to taste

 

Mix ingredients for sauce and set aside. Mix chicken, egg and cornstarch.

In a heavy saute pan, heat 3 tbls oil and ginger slices.  Add chicken and saute until no longer pink. Remove chicken and ginger from the pan.

Add 2 tbls spoons oil.  Saute onion and pepper until just beginning to cook through but still has a crunch.  Add chicken and sauce to pan and heat through

Serve over rice.

4 servings, 500 calories per serving.

Hack:  Freeze servings sized portions for future use.

Hack:  Place leftover rice while still warm (to retain moisture) in serving size containers and freeze for future use.

 

How To Stock Your Pantry – 17 Foods To Include and 7 Foods to Avoid

I like to cook my own foods from scratch. I’m a firm believer that cooking from scratch is really the only way to know the quality of what I’m eating. But, while we have a goal to eat healthy, we just can’t do it all.

It’s virtually impossible for us to make every single thing we want to eat. Sure we can put together a marinade for our grass fed beef and pair it with some fresh vegetables for dinner. We can throw together a salad with homemade dressing or have a breakfast sandwich made from a fried egg atop a freshly baked biscuit.

But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? When was the last time you brewed soy sauce because you needed a sprinkle or two in a stir-fry? Cooked up a batch of catsup so you could have a squirt to dip your french fries? Or made your own mayo because you were dying for an egg salad sandwich? Me, neither.

And, let’s face it, sometimes life gets in the way. We’re busy. We get tired. Unmotivated. Did your spouse really forget to tell you that he’s invited the Smiths to dinner? Or perhaps your son shows up with half the football team and wants to know what there is to eat.

Now, if we wanted to, we could surely go ahead and plan for all these contingencies. We could cook, bake, mix and ferment then dehydrate, can, and freeze it all. The problem with that is that aforementioned life to which we must attend. That and the fact that our storage spaces and freezers are only so big.

So here are some thoughts on how to stock your pantry – with 17 foods to include and 7 foods to avoid.

 

What Are Processed Foods?

Before we tackle the problems that we face every day, I’d like to do a quick review on what, exactly, are processed foods.

Processed foods are any foods that have been modified from its original state. This means, of course, that the moment you pick a tomato off the vine, you have altered or “processed” that food. I only bring this up because I want you to realize that the simple act of a food being processed is not an evil concept.

Foods have been processed since the beginning of mankind. This was usually done on a community or family level with food being hunted, raised or foraged while it’s abundant and then using various means of preserving it for use at a later date. When we cook fresh food in our own kitchen and freeze it for future use, we are also processing food.

It’s highly (or ultra) processed foods that we need to be on the lookout for. These are highly manipulated foods that contain many added ingredients and sometimes don’t contain any of the food it claims to be. Are you aware that some brands of coffee “creamers” are made from water, sugar and oil? Not a drop of dairy related anything.

The Bad Guys: Ultra Processed Foods

First let’s get to the bad guys: those highly (ultra) processed foods. While the food industry works hard to convince us that fruit flavored loopy things are good for us, one quick glance at the label tells us that it’s certainly nothing even a toucan would eat.

The secret to choosing healthier processed foods is no secret at all! A look at the label and ingredient list will tell you everything you need to know. Here are a few things to look for (and steer away from):

Low fat, low sugar and/or sugar free. Foods naturally contain fat and/or sugar to varying degrees and this is what makes them taste good. It’s important to remember that neither fat nor sugar is a bad thing when enjoyed in moderation. As a matter of fact, a certain amount of both is necessary for your body to function properly.

When foods are manipulated to remove naturally occurring fat or sugar, these are usually replaced by the opposite thing (fat for sugar and sugar for fat) or for artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame.

Artificially flavored or imitation. Translation: Chemical.

Any ingredient you don’t have in your kitchen. Or can’t pronounce. Or wouldn’t even know where to get.

Vegetarian fed chickens (or eggs). Chickens are not vegetarians and need the amino acid that are found in meat sources. Since chickens love bugs, a vegetarian chicken is surely not a free-range chicken. It’s a chicken that has been kept inside (away from bugs) and most likely fed a diet supplemented with a synthetic version of the amino acid methionine.

Healthy or Natural. These words could mean anything. Often it means that whatever the manufacturer started out with was healthy and/or natural (which most food is…when you start out) but it doesn’t mean it stayed that way.

Kid friendly. When was the last time your kid picked the healthiest option on the table? While there are exceptions, most kids, when left to their own devices, will pick the sugariest, most artificially brightly colored option they see. Especially if it’s being presented by a cartoon character.

Fortified or enriched. This means that something has been unnaturally added to the product. It’s a label typically plastered on an ultra processed food to make it seem healthier.

 

The Better Guys: Minimally Processed Foods

There are some products on the grocery shelves that are less processed and can be a good addition to your pantry for when life comes a’calling. The secret is, again, the label and ingredient list. Keywords to look for might be simply, organic, grass fed or free-range but the real test is to read the ingredient label. Make sure that whatever’s in the package are things you would add if you were making it yourself.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Canned beans
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Canned pineapple
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Jarred spaghetti sauce
  • Canned tuna
  • Peanut butter (or other nut/seed butters)
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Frozen seafood
  • Packaged cheese
  • Unflavored nuts
  • Boxed pasta
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Bread (organic or from a local bakery)
  • Crackers
  • Dark Chocolate

When You’re On The Go: Surviving Road Trips

Consider these options before you grab a hot dog from that street vendor:

Pack drinks and snacks. Even if you plan to stop somewhere for lunch, having a snack under your belt will ensure that you’re not starving when you make the decision on where to eat. Try some trail mix, fresh fruit and a water bottle.

Convenience store. More and more convenience stores are making an effort to accommodate those of us who want to maintain a healthy diet. Many offer single serving sizes of cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruits and salads. Remember to check the ingredient labels to make sure you’re not getting more than you bargained for!

Grocery store. When was the last time you thought to stop at the grocery store for a quick snack? There’s no shortage of healthy snacks to be found here!

Skip the chain restaurants. Look for smaller “Mom and Pop” restaurants that are more likely to make their goods from scratch. If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar territory, take the time to research restaurants in the area online. There are no shortage of apps that review local places and let you know the best option.

 

One Last Thought

We have certainly been spoiled with accessibility of a wide variety of foods that have become available to us over the last century . We can’t go back nor would we want to (and I have no intention of giving up catsup).

What we can do is strive to consume foods in their natural state, as much as possible, and adjust the amounts and combinations to most suit the needs of your own body.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. This is a learning journey and none of us is an expert. We can only do the best that we can each day and remember that life is meant to be enjoyed.

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Hummus Veggie Wrap

 

Hummus Tabouli Wrap

 

1 large whole wheat sandwich wrap

3 tbls Hummus

3 tbls Tabouli

3 tbls Feta cheese

Baby spinach

Red onion, thinly sliced

 

Spread Hummus on sandwich wrap, going all the way to the edges.

Sprinkle tabouli and feta cheese over hummus.

Top with a handful of spinach and a few red onion slices. Roll and cut in half.

 

2 servings, 275 calories per serving

 

Hack: Check out the salad bar for small amounts of this ingredient list

Hack: Place waxed paper or parchment paper between wraps, seal in freezer bag and store in freezer for up to 2 months.

 

 

Sweet and Spicy Butternut Squash

 

Mashed Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs)

2 tbls butter

2 tbls brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400℉

Coat baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place cut side down in pan. Roast in oven until tender, 30-45 minutes.  If preferred, squash can cooked in the microwave on high for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave it until it’s cool enough to handle but still warm. Scoop squash from skins into large bowl.

Add butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Stir until ingredients are well incorporated and butter melts. Use a blender or mixer to make the squash smoother, if desired.

Serve warm.

6 servings, 170 calories per serving

Hack: Fresh peeled and cubed butternut squash can be purchased in the produce department of the grocery store. Frozen butternut squash can also be used.

Hack: Leftovers can be packed in serving sized portions in sealable freezer bags or containers and frozen for future use.