Monday, June 29, 2015

Frequently Used Non-electrical Long-time Kitchen Items

Do you have kitchen gadgets or appliances that you you've had for a long time and still frequently use? These non-electrical kitchen items are so old that some are practically considered classics—many not available off the shelf anymore. I've had them sometime between about 15 years and, uh, a few decades. And I use them several times a week—maybe occasionally skipping only a week.

Tupperware Measuring Pitcher
This pitcher with spout and handle can hold up to 8 cups or 2 liters, with room to spare. The lid has a hinged overhang for storing excess liquid or batter. I use it often for mixing up pancake batter and easily pouring it onto a pan. In case you get nostalgic, maybe even want to buy any, some of these pitchers (and similar) are available on EBay.

Glass Food Jar with Measuring Marks
When was the last time you saw glass peanut butter jars with measure marks? Seems all these jars are now plastic. The one I use has a capacity of two cups, not counting the threaded area. One side of the jar shows 1/4-cup increments, and the other side shows 1/3-cup increments.

I use my jar often for making French toast batter (1/2 C milk, 2 eggs, 1 T sugar, 1 t cinnamon), which wets about 4 or 5 slices of bread. My recipe is based on a Betty Crocker paperback recipe, but not easy to find online. A similar and easy recipe is at
11/6/16--Alas, I broke the jar. It slid off a small appliance and rolled onto the floor.

Braun Kitchen Scale
This Swiss-made scale is strictly mechanical—no digital readouts for weight or units. It had come with a surface-aligned bowl, but it broke within the first year, I think. The weight labelings display either up to 4 pounds or 2 kilograms. I'm shocked that it's available now for $60.

I recently bought some scales for gifts, picking Taylor 3842-21 at a bricks-n-mortar store. The digital features are nice, and weighs up to 11 pounds (or 5 kg). Good thing about the Braun, though, is not needing to replace batteries.

Crank Can Opener
The opener I use is so old that our household doesn't remember who acquired it or when. I'm surprised that it's available on Amazon. I'd used an electrical opener a long time ago, but the edge didn't cut the can lids so well after a decade or so.

Coincidentally, more and more cans now come with poptop rings for easy lid removal.

Glassware (Mixing Bowls, Baking Pans)
Although I have multiples and similar items of glassware, I took a group pic to represent my faves. I use the wide-diameter, shallow Pyrex dish for making up and microwaving TV-dinner-type plates. This dish itself has served as a lid that mates with a deeper Pyrex casserole dish. Seems my most frequent casseroles are my veggie pasta, which I use the oblong glass pan for.

The mixing bowls have moved with me for several decades and numerous recipes. I omitted the largest bowl from the pic; it's still cradling the remainder of the watermelon I'm still working on consuming.

Kodak DC 3400 Digital Camera
Admittedly, a digital camera is not a kitchen item, I use it as often, maybe more often, than kitchen appliances or gadgets. When I first got it, the camera used to be the cat's meow. Contrasted with today's smartphones, it's now oversized, hefty, and feature-limited. Not planning to abandon it anytime soon. It serves my purposes and is easy to use.

7/8/2016: Sadly, the battery door broke a few months later. Used the camera, temporarily taping and untaping the door to deal with batteries, acquired a Fuji JX665. The Fuji has taken a bit of getting used to, but the additional features and video capability have helped wean me away from the Kodak.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Watermelon Pick N Cut

It's a good time of the year to have your pick of watermelons for quality, quantity, and price. My picking method is the one that a cousin told me about her father using—"Pick the ugly one." My method of cutting chunks and storing unused the unused portion for later cuts helps prevent mushiness, thus, extending the refrigerator life of the melon.

The upper pixstrip shows the pick and preparation process. (The melon was from late last season) The lower pixstrip shows circled areas of "ugly" areas for a watermelon I bought a couple of weeks ago, some of which is still in the fridge. BTW, I highly recommend seedless ones for great taste while avoiding the seed hassle for eaters.

Picking a Watermelon
The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) advises a short list for picking a watermelon (lightly edited for punctuation and spelling):
It's as easy as 1, 2, 3.
  1. Look the watermelon over.
    You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents.
  2. Lift it up.
    The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92% water, most of the weight is water.
  3. Turn it over.
    The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
View the association's YouTube video. After viewing, you can click links to videos from others about picking watermelons. (It's nice that YouTube displays similar-theme links at current URLs.) Having viewed a few other videos, I'd say a common method is to look for the yellow patch, which pickers say indicates the melon was ripened on the vine—a good thing.

A little elaboration about the "pick the ugly" advice. Per the relative, a melon that has lots of (surface) scars and strafe-like markings indicate bugs' past attempts to get at the sweetness. So, I infer that if melons have smooth complexions, they're not so sweet, and bugs don't bother. Look again at my pixstrip with the circled defects. Ain't the melon an ugly beaut!

Cutting a Watermelon
The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) has advice about carving a watermelon—decorative cutting besides merely for consumption. If you prefer more direct cutting instructions, visit the following YouTube links for cutting chunks and spears:
My own cutting method differs from the methods that of the videos because I cut only a few rings worth at a time, refrigerating the remainder. A large mixing bowl cradles the rounded end, and food wrap covers the cut end.

When I'm ready to cut another serving bowl's worth, I pull out the mixing bowl, lift the wrap, slice and chunk another ring or two of melon, and re-cover and re-refrigerate the bowl. Using the mixing bowl method of storage, the melon can stay fresh (sweet, not deteriorated, not mushy) for WEEKS!

Image descriptions of the upper pixstrip, which shows the pick, wash, cut, and store process:
  1. Dashed outline showing two images of a melon
    1. Yellow spot with "attack" markings
    2. Another attack marking on another side of the melon
  2. Melon in sink with nail brush under running water
  3. Large plate with knife, and the whole melon inside a large glass mixing bowl
  4. Dashed outline showing two cutting-process images
    1. Some melon rings and small-cut end, and the remainder of the melon in the mixing bowl with food wrap on it
    2. Rinds, and chunked watermelon in serving bowl
  5. Dashed outline showing subsequent cutting-process images
    1. Remainder watermelon tipped onto plate with knife inserted for cutting a ring
    2. Ring, rind, and chunked watermelon in serving bowl (rewrapped melon not shown)
An idea I might adopt for future watermelon cutting might be to slice some rings onto a plate, make all the cuts while leaving the rinds in place, remove the rinds, then shove the fruit into a serving bowl.

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