Cooking and Gadgets

raviolimaker“I was thinking… when we get back, we could make homemade ravioli”, Francis nodded to the pasta roller on the counter and pulled a box from his kitchen cupboard. It was a ravioli press. A Raviolamp 12, to be exact, in a slightly worn box. I was breathless. This was ringing all the right bells – crafty, foodie, flea market finds. Francis and I have cooked a few times together, very successfully, in fact, but I still get performance anxiety. Present me with a brand new $300 pasta machine, with all the bells and whistles, and I know what perfection is expected of me. But a used ravioli press with a piece of packing tape holding the box together? Well now, you just wanna play. THAT, I can do.

The day before, we had hiked through the woods near a cabin we rented in Rhododendron, Oregon, and had seen people gathering mushrooms. They weren’t tourists, they were definitely pro-shroomers. I say that because they were small and bent, wearing waterproof boots and ponchos with bags to contain their findings. They stayed targeted on their tasks, not looking up to say hi to wanderers. They were like fungus gnomes, trekking through the misty woods with determination and focus. That’s not judgment you hear in my voice, that’s jealousy and admiration. Their collection sacks were full. They were magical mushroom hobbits and I was in awe.

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eggmanFour years ago, Roy and I (newly besotted), rented a little plot of land on a Vineyard farm. We grew vegetables and sold them at the farm’s roadside stand. Living in a tiny apartment over a general store, we shuttled back and forth to tend our plot.

That fall, our friend Joannie tracked us down one day, took us by the hand, and led us to a little farm house on two acres of land. Right on the spot, she introduced us to the owners and insisted that they rent the farm house to us. I’m not sure if the owners knew what hit them, but in about an hour, we had all shaken hands and Roy and I were packing up the apartment. Our new landlords said, “Sure, grow whatever you want here.”

We moved into the little (uninsulated) 1895 farm house a few weeks later, and by spring we were turning over the soil and putting up the fences for our first vegetable plot. Roy built a little farm stand, and we stuck a sign out by the road. One summer, then two summers went by.

We got 8 laying hens, and then 50 more. The garden doubled in size, and we built a hoop house. We made a tiny bit of money off our tiny farmette, keeping the farm stand open almost every day while writing books and building houses (our real jobs), too.

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whippedcream.jpgSo whipping cream is delicious. It, like butter, just amazes me how many things can come from milk. It’s life’s first beverage. It’s a must on every trip to the grocery store. It’s milk! If you haven’t hooked onto organic milk and cream yet, you are missing out! The lactose free milk is about the best glass of anything you’ll ever drink! I digress…

Whipped cream is simply divine. The science of physically changing a liquid into a solid is astounding, but what is so amazing to me is the taste. With a scant bit of sugar, some good vanilla, and the inside of a vanilla bean pod, you can have the best of dessert toppings in a matter of minutes.

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nudo_lemon_front.jpgI didn't really think much about food and what went into making a nice meal until I was somewhat forced to learn how to cook when I was laid off (again) about ten years ago. I needed something to do with my free time and felt like I should contribute something to the household, since I was no longer bringing in any dough, so to speak. While I had certainly thrown things together over the years, this was a new quest to eat better and see if time and effort really made a difference.

I know that seems ridiculous, but I honestly had no frame of reference. My mother always did all the cooking when I was growing up, preparing hearty meals from scratch for her family of six. Of course, this was in the days where the whole family sat down to dinner every night and you had to finish everything on your plate before you were excused and then were promptly put to work cleaning up the kitchen. It was her domain and we ate what was prepared. Now I got to choose what graced our table.

With a subscription to Cooking Light and The Betty Crocker Cookbook in hand I began to create and in time to actually innovate and uncover the joys of foods I never thought would ever enter my mouth. One of my biggest revelations in the intervening years has been the deliciousness of the olive. I am addicted to everything about this "fruit" and now instead of picking them out of things I put more on. I think I could actually subsist on crusty bread dipped in e.v.o.o. (at least for a weekend). If the oil is infused with something, even better. One of my favorite cooking "tricks" is to add a bit of infused olive oil, usually garlic or basil, to the dish to brighten it up and deepen the flavors. I'd always pick up a tin here and there to keep on hand, never very concerned with the producer. That's all changed now that I've found Nudo Olive Oils.

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"Every Grillmaster has a few tricks up their sleeves for ultimate grilling success, giving moist, juicy, flavorful results every time they light up the grill. Here are the Top 10 Secrets for Grilling Success that will make even a novice griller look like a pro."

1) Invest in a Meat Thermometer: Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling. By knowing exact internal temps, you can remove meat at just the right time for moist, juicy results. I recommend the Thermapen — it’s an instant-read digital thermometer that shows temps in less than five seconds, so you’re not spilling valuable heat from the grill.

2) Know Minimum Internal Temperatures for Meat: These are the minimal internal temperatures for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keep in mind that when you take your meat off the grill, it continues to cook, so it is OK to pull it off when it’s a few degrees under the listed temperature.

Grilling-Success

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