kitchen

Empty Nesters: How to make your own knife block

Home and Market Editor Lisa Freedman and her husband just bought a house two hours outside of New York City. Yay! The only issue? They don’t have anything to put in it. Follow her as she shops, tackles some DIY projects and works her decorating magic.

Ready for the world’s easiest DIY project? Inspired by these knife blocks (I actually have two at my city apartment, but think they’re too modern for the house), I decided to make my own with a tin and some eight-inch bamboo skewers. I washed the tin super well and, when it was dry, I filled it with skewers. See? Easy!

One thing to note: I did use a LOT more skewers than I thought I would (I ended up needing 1,100 of them!), but I found them for a good price at Food Service Warehouse. In total, this project cost me less than $25 and it’s way more personal than a plain lacquer box. My hope is to make another one with a short, narrow tin for my steak knives…whenever we get steak knives, that is.

Check back soon to see what else I’ve been up to.

The Pastry School Diaries: It’s what’s on the inside that matters

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

The first step of learning how to make a wedding or “celebration” cake is learning how to pipe beautiful buttercream roses, buds and other flowers. If you’ve been following along, you should know by now that I was neither looking forward to this technique nor expecting to be very good at it, and I was right.

 

I was so ashamed of how my roses and piping work turned out that I actively chose to not photograph my work, although in retrospect I wish I had something to look back and laugh at.

 

“After about the 27th time, you’ll get the hang of it,” my chef-instructor said with a smile. She wasn’t kidding.

 

But what I’ve realized (yet again) is that this is just another test at my patience. Piping perfect flowers isn’t something someone should be naturally good at—it takes practice, diligence and concentration. I may never master the art of the perfect cala lily or rose, but I’ll certainly improve over the next few weeks. And you know what? The cake underneath is going to taste the same no matter how beautiful my buttercream work is (or isn’t).

I don’t need to walk out of my schooling with the ability to brag about my piping skills. If I can tell my friends, family and peers that I can bake you the best lemon-scented cake you’ve ever had in your life, that is more than enough for me.

 

Got any piping tips? I’d love to hear them! Check back next week for more tales from the kitchen.

The Pastry School Diaries: Tricks of the Trade

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

Going into pastry school, I knew certain things would change about my perception of baking: I’ve grown a greater understanding behind the science of it, I’ve grown a greater appreciation for the true art form that it is and I’ve definitely developed a level of creativity when it comes to pairing flavors, textures and recipes. One element I didn’t think about, however, was how being in school would change my style of baking, from prep to clean-up.

I’ve gone from being a “measure as you go, use as many bowls as possible and follow specific instructions” baker to a “measure your ingredients before, use specific tools and bowls and trust your instinct” baker in just 8 short months. Let me explain:

In class, we have established a pretty regular routine: we arrive, set up our stations, our chef instructor talks a little about what we’ll be making (she may even demonstrate depending on the level of difficulty) and then we get to work. We read through the recipe, talk through who will be doing what (since we work in teams of two) gather and measure all of our ingredients and start baking. Having your mise en place, or “everything in place,” is by far the most efficient way of baking and cooking. For example, I’ve learned how much easier it is to whisk a measured amount of sugar into egg whites while the mixer is running, than it is to let the mixer run, measure out the sugar and risk over-whipping. I’ve exercised this technique at home, almost to an obsessive-compulsive level. I truly cannot bake or cook without my mise en place anymore.

Another habit I’ve picked up from school is truly learning to trust my gut. I must admit, I grew up baking from boxed cake mixes and pre-made cookie doughs, following the step-by-step instructions to the tee. While I know how important it is for measurements to be exact, ingredients to be added in a specific order and oven temperatures to be accurate, I’ve gained the confidence to stray away from the rules. Whether it’s adding an extra spice, extract or liqueur to my batter, swapping in hazelnuts for almonds in a crumb topping or leaving that loaf of bread in the oven for a few minutes longer to develop that crunchy, charred crust (like in the photo above), I take pride in my creative decisions. I’ve even developed some of my own recipes, based on riffs on what I’ve learned in class.

 

Chai-spiced palmiers—I created the spice combination myself!

A super rich coffee glaze and chocolate drizzle over homemade doughnuts

Finally, my kitchen tool collection has vastly expanded, and I cannot fathom the idea of baking anymore without the following:

Small offset spatula—from icing cupcakes to letting chocolate set, this tool comes in handy for everything

Digital instant-read thermometer—when the temperature matters to the exact degree (sugar syrup, tempered chocolate), this baby is my BFF

Scale—weighing your ingredients is far more accurate than measuring them in cups and spoons

Bench scraper—it looks like it belongs in a hardware store more than a kitchen, but my bench scraper helps me slice butter, bread dough and blocks of chocolate…not to mention, it’s great at scraping off crumbs and messes from my countertop!

 

 

What are your best baking habits? Check back next week for more sweet advice!

Have You Entered Our Love Your Cucina Giveaway Yet?

We’ve partnered with PotsandPans.com, who is hosting giveaway of nearly $1,000 worth of Rachael Ray’s Cucina line kitchenware!

 

 

Simply enter via the PotsandPans.com Facebook page and one winner will get to choose his or her favorite color of pots, pans, bowls, knives and more! Rach’s line was inspired by her travels in Italy, and every piece has the handmade, rustic look that she loves about the ceramics there.

 

 

But wait, there’s more! 10 additional contestants will have the chance to win a Cucina skillet in the color of their choice.

 

For more globally-inspired recipes, visit the PotsandPans.com Pinterest page. Good luck! Contest ends May 13th.

The 5 coolest things we saw at the Housewares show

Lisa Freedman, Every Day with Rachael Ray’s Home and Market Editor, walked (many) miles through the 2015 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago last week. While she attempts to catch up on emails—and sleep—you can check out the five most ingenious new products on display at the show. Note: These photos aren’t the prettiest, but you try trekking through a convention center while carrying hundreds of catalogs, armed with a measly iPhone camera!

 

OXO Bright Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer

This fall, OXO will debut small kitchen electrics—that’s right, it will be the first time the company releases anything with a plug! The line includes coffee makers, toasters, an immersion blender and, our favorite, a hand mixer. It has an LED light that shines when the beaters turn, so bakers can actually see what they’re mixing. Genius! oxo.com, $80

Read more

Win Everything You Need for an Organized Kitchen from OXO

Today’s Love Your Kitchen Challenge is to clear the clutter! That means donate or toss out two kitchen tools you haven’t used in the past six months. Trust us: If you’re not sure what it does, you don’t need it! But that’s not all. Once you’ve de-cluttered your kitchen, enter to win $250 worth of products from OXO — which basically covers anything and everything you could possibly need to organize your kitchen. All you have to do is tag your pic on Instagram using the #OXOsweepstakes hashtag and you’ll be entered to win all of the products below. Totally worth cleaning, right?

Expandable Utensil Holder

Read more

Over My Dead Body…

…Is what my mom said when Patty Smyth—the singer/songwriter aptly known for “Goodbye to You”—attempted to repo our stove.

 

You see, the coastal Brooklyn house my mom bought in 1976 had long been a second home to Patty, whose stepmother, Cookie, had grown up there. The stove that came with the place was indeed a beauty: the same vintage Chambers model Rach used to have on her set, except ours was powder blue, not yellow.

 

Every once in a while Patty would swing by the house to see how the stove was doing. Well, to say hi to the family, too, but mostly to make sure her cherished heirloom was still around.

 

Once, when I was in college, my mom called me and said, “John is here and wants the stove.”

Me: “John who?”

Mom: “Johnny Mac.”

Me: “MacEnroe?”

Mom: “Yeah—and I told him over my dead body.”

 

Yes, she summarily shot down the era’s most famous tennis player—who also happened to be Patty’s husband.

 

My mother loved that stove. Never mind that we had to light the burners with a match. Or that the oven wasn’t spacious enough to hold a decent turkey (sort of crucial when you host Thanksgiving every year). Or that the merest breeze would kill the pilot light along with the burners, and we’d have to wait at least 30 minutes before turning the gas back on—or risk getting blown off our feet by a gas surge (believe me, I know from personal experience).

 

Our beloved stove

 

Despite all the stove’s shortcomings, her love for it was unflinching, no matter how much her culinary-minded children pleaded for an upgrade.  After all, this stove had been her trusty sidekick throughout her adult life. Those burners heated the first meal she made as a homeowner—and the water for my first bottle.  That oven helped us celebrate every conceivable family milestone—and achievement, big or small.

 

But after this 36-year love affair, everything changed in an instant: The night Sandy hit, five feet of water swallowed the stove whole.

 

You know the rest of this story by now—about the devastation and loss that reached far and wide. And while the household essentials were comparatively minor casualties, my mother couldn’t bear to part with the stove. She often said it had a soul; the prospect of discarding such a beloved being broke her heart.

 

Our kitchen post Sandy

 

Now, even after her herculean mold-, rust-, grime- and debris-removal efforts, the poor thing is still “resting” outside while we search for ever more advanced resurrection methods.

 

In its place sits a shiny new oven big enough to hold a 40-pound turkey—much to her children’s delight. But somehow, mom hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea that knobs alone can fire up burners.  No matches required.

 

Our new kitchen

Patty did stop by the house after Sandy to make sure we were okay. And of course, to check on the Chambers. She was saddened by its streaks and corroded innards, but relieved it was still there.

I’ve urged my mother to pay it…backward and relinquish the stove to Patty. And you know what? Mom’s almost there. But I have a feeling that “almost” could last for a while.

 

Written by Chris Jette, Meredith senior marketing manager

 

Related Links

Eight Long Months After Hurricane Sandy

The First Steps for Your Kitchen Renovation

Reluctant Renovator

 

Rocca Stars in the Kitchen

Guess who’s here to dish on cooking with the nation’s most beloved nannas (and poppas)! Daily Show vet Mo Rocca, whose Cooking Channel series, My Grandmother’s Ravioli, kicks off its second season this month.

By David Farley

 

Q: How did the show get its name?

A: My granmother made pasta from scratch, and her ravioli were big pockets stuffed with ground beef, spinach and garlic with a light tomato sauce. They were delicious – and large and light and delicate. So when Nora Ephron was a guest on my NPR show, Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!—and I was talking about the inspiration for my new cooking show—she pointed out that My Grandmother’s Ravioli was the obvious name. I loved going back to the network people to say not only did I have a great name, but Nora Ephron helped me come up with it.

Q: How do you decide who will be featured?

A: We want people who really care about cooking. They also have to have a good personality, but not in that crazy reality TV way. These are people you actually want to be related to.

Q: The show has you cooking with grandmas from everywhere. Have you found a universal ingredient?

A: Garlic. Everyone uses it. In fact, my own Italian grandmother’s apartment always smelled like garlic.

Q: What’s been the biggest surprise?

A: Almost none of the grandmothers measure ingredients. And grandfathers measure even less! They’re extreme non-measurers!

Q: Beyond recipes, what have you learned?

A: How to cut onions without crying. From a Pakistani grandfather, actually, I learned that you should drink a glass of red wine before cutting them. Though he may just have wanted an excuse to drink wine.

 

 

Explore more of our celebrity interviews here.

We Can Work It Out!

Lauren Purcell's ApartmentI was that kid who in kindergarten was an avid earner of gold stars. In grade school, I cared a lot about my report card. Which may explain my dismay that years later I’m scraping by with a C-minus in kitchen renovation. I have yet to create the binder of inspiration pages torn from magazines that I imagine every “good” renovator has. It took me three weeks to sign off on the refrigerator my designer recommended because I insisted on seeing it in person. I’m the worst kind of perfectionist—one who’s also a procrastinator.

 

Or maybe I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist. That’s the diagnosis I got when I confessed all to my “kitchen therapist,” ApartmentTherapy.com’s Maxwell Ryan. “You want the renovation to be perfect, but you’re also afraid it’s going to fail,” he said.

 

Maxwell has a hilarious (but scarily right-on) trick for grouping renovators into four types: Each is one of the Beatles. “You’re George Harrison, the idealist, the guy who took the band to India,” he teased me. “You’re making a simple kitchen renovation into a whole journey.” Luckily, he also told me what I could do about it—and I asked him for advice for the other Beatles, too, so you can identify yourself and make good progress on your own project.

–Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief

 

What Type Of Renovator Are You?

Tell us below in the comments.

 

Beatles_John Lennon

YOU’RE A TOE-TAPPER IF…

you’re take-charge and decisive but can be impatient. You’re fiery, with a bit of a temper.

YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE: John Lennon. “He ran off with Yoko,” Maxwell says. “He pushed boundaries to get results.”

SO NOW WHAT? To avoid making snap decisions you might regret later, “readjust your time line to account for the fact that some details require a little reflection,” Maxwell says.

 

Beatles_Paul McCartney
YOU’RE AN ENTHUSIAST IF…

you’re easy to please, sometimes too easy. Does “Oh, but I like all of them!” sound familiar?

YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Paul McCartney. “He’s charming, always happy and never cared how much time it took to finish an album because he enjoyed the process,” Maxwell says.

SO NOW WHAT?Let your designer know that less is more—fewer options means you’ll make decisions more quickly.

Beatles_George Harrison
YOU’RE A PERFECTIONIST IF…

you want—need!—things to be exactly right. So you agonize over even the smallest detail.

YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:George Harrison. “He was the introspective one, the idealist,” Maxwell says.

SO NOW WHAT?Hire a designer who’s also a perfectionist. That way you can trust that she’s picking the four best backsplash tiles from the hundreds of options. And you can stop obsessing.

Beatles_Ringo Starr
YOU’RE A ZEN MASTER IF…

you believe in the slow and steady approach. You take direction well and appreciate support.

YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Ringo Starr. “He’s calm and cool,” Maxwell says. “He’s probably got the lowest blood pressure, too!”

SO NOW WHAT? You may need a slight kick to get things moving, so set goals and deadlines with your designer—and then ask him to really push you to meet them.

 

Follow along with Lauren as she shares her progress and everything else, from the appliances to keeping costs down to injecting personality into one of the most important rooms in her home.

 

More Kitchen Renovation Posts:

The “Before” Photos

The Reluctant Renovator: Getting Started

The First Step for Your Kitchen Renovation

 

How to Roast Peppers

Roasting peppers teases out their sweetness and gives them a smoky edge (And they make Rachael’s Birds in a Nest with Peppers & Sausage oh so good.) Jarred roasted peppers are a good shortcut, but you’ll get a fresher flavor and firmer texture by making your own. It couldn’t be easier: Follow our to-do tutorial below, heat up the broiler and get cooking!

Birds in a Nest with Peppers & Sausage

Get Rach’s Birds in a Nest with Peppers & Sausage recipe!

 

 

1. Place the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan and broil, turning often with tongs, until blistered all over, about 8 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

2. While warm, stick the peppers in a glass or metal bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle.

3. Remove the peppers from the bowl and peel off the skin. Cut out the stem and ribs, toss the seeds and you’re done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrations by Emma Kelly

That’s it! Now, get roastin’ and share your success stories with us below in our comments!