24 June 2011

I've Seen Elvis

That was the slogan on a T-shirt that Burt used to have a long, long time ago.  Burt likes Elvis; I don't.  I credit that to one time when I was about 9 or so, and Elvis was on TV, singing live, and dressed in a white pantsuit, fat (by those days' standards), sweating like all get out, and just totally grossed me out.  Grossed me out so much that I couldn't stand him or anything to do with him.  What a shame.  Whenever I hear him, even now, the first thing in my mind is my revulsion.  Suspicious Minds is the only song that can rise above.

But good ol' Elvis has staying power.  Cool Guy likes a lot of his music, and we all like his peanut butter/banana combo, the star of today's breakfast, which we dub Elvis Bagels.  That's right, toasted whole wheat bagels smeared while warm with peanut butter (or, better yet, toasted in the toaster oven with the pb right on) and then topped with sliced bananas.  Burt and I like it just as much as the boys.  Add a tall glass of milk, and you've got a wonderful start to the day.

No recipe necessary.

22 June 2011

Life Without a Microwave

Is it possible?  A non-zapping life?  It seems hard to imagine, yet I am old enough to remember my family getting its first one when I was about 10.  And I remember the warning not to stand too close to it, and I remember our systematically destroying our melmac plates in it.  They aren't microwave safe, BTW.

So basically all my cooking life, I have had and relied on a microwave.  Not really for cooking, per se, but for all those handy things like melting butter, boiling some water, heating up leftovers.

Cool Guy especially loves loves loves the microwave.  He went through a warm milk phase about a year ago where he would heat up a small glass of milk every evening in the microwave.  In fact, he wanted everything heated up.  Perhaps not the ice cream, but basically everything else.

And that's how disaster struck.  Cool Guy, heating up yet another item, forgot that metal bowls do not go in the microwave.  Ka-pow.  Oh, and the smell.  We are unfortunate enough to have a built-in model which came with the house and would cost about $2000 to replace.  And.....we have "kitchen remodel" on our near future to-do list, and so an immediate replacement would not be wise until we know exactly what we want and where we want it.  So.  No microwave.  For about 9 months now.

And guess what?  We're doing fine. 

We did get a toaster oven to help out during this time, taking the place of the microwave and toaster, which also blinked out on us, and it is filling both jobs rather well, thank you.  In fact, today's breakfast comes courtesy of the toaster oven, which does a much better job than anything else could have done.  Today it was Toasted Cheese.  You want something pretty quick, pretty reliable, a nice vehicle for some more dairy and whole grains, you can't miss with this one.  It is one of my favorites.

Toasted Cheese
1 serving

1. For each serving, place a piece of whole wheat bread on rack in the toaster oven.

2. Place a slice of cheese on the bread.  I like cheddar; boys like Muenster.

3. Toast.  Yum.

If you don't have a toaster oven, then you must first toast bread, and then run cheese on bread under the broiler in a regular oven.  The toaster oven method is much easier and turns out a much better product.

Toast and Peanut Butter

If you have a toaster oven, put some peanut butter on bread and toast it.  It comes out perfect.  If you only have a toaster, it's a 2-step process: toast bread, and smear on pb while still warm.  It's fast, easy, nutritious, and very boy-appealing.  Throw on some sliced bananas if you're feeling Elvis-y.

Now for my recommendation:

I did a lot of research before deciding on a toaster oven.  The Breville got very high reviews, and I was extremely impressed with the blender by that company, so I went with it.  It is large, and I seem to do most of my oven stuff in it now.  It has lots of settings, and it has memory.  So, for instance, I find that making a certain frozen pizza does best in 18 minutes rather than the preset 20, the oven will remember that the next time I put it on pizza setting.  It has a frozen setting and a convection setting, which I have found means that I can make things 25% more quickly than in a regular oven.

In addition, I can toast up to 6 slices of toast at a time.  Plus, I can broil, and roast, and there is the pizza setting and the cookie setting.  Both turn out better product than the oven or microwave.

Now for the less than perfect parts:
1. We hear, though we have not experienced, that customer service at Breville stinks.  I'm willing to live with that.  How many times do I ever need customer service for any appliance?  It's a risk I'm willing to take, but I wanted to put it out there.  In fact, our first toaster oven was extremely noisy, as in something must be wrong noisy.  But we got the oven through Amazon, so we just exchanged it, no hassle, and that was the end of that problem.

2. The exterior gets hot.  You would think that with a top line product like this that it would be cool touch on the outside, but it's not.  So I needed to warn the boys about it, and must be careful around it when it's on.  I can live with it, but I'd rather it be otherwise.

We have changed our food storage ways to using glass and foil rather than plastic and saran.  There was an adjustment period involved.  I was OK with it, knowing that if there is any truth to the BPA issues, at least we were getting away from that.  But still an adjustment is needed.  Leftovers warm up in 15 minutes rather than 1.  It takes brain power to remember that.  But after over half a year, I honestly do not miss the microwave at all.

Would I recommend that one have both microwave AND toaster oven?  I think it would depend on how much kitchen space you have.  I don't have much.  They each have their merits and faults, but I must say that if quality rather than speed is your thing, the toaster oven wins out.

08 June 2011

Finally posting. Some Business and Recommendations

It's been a long time coming.  Spring around here is just hectic.  Mulch, weeds, end of school.  Still, rest assured, we are continuing to eat breakfast.  In fact, Burt took the boys on vacation to visit him mother this week, and I was insistent that they have some scrambled eggs, fresh strawberries, and toast before leaving.  (Why am I not going?  Boring stuff, so let's just say that I've been to destination plenty in the last year and needed a break.)

On to the business item: I have another blog, Landscapes and Portraits, which I am going to close out.  This other blog was focused mainly on family life, intellectual life, and interests of mine.  I like it, but I have a LOT more fun blogging about breakfast, and it has seemed almost onerous to continue with blog #1, when I can barely find time to post on blog #2.  Command decision is to discontinue first blog, and perhaps work in elements of it into this one.

Now that we've got that over with, on to my recommedations.  Right before Burt and I were married, my Grandma Demers died, and my parents had a houseful of items to dispense with.  I was given all of the kitchen equipment that I could use.  I'll add that my grandma was not much of a cooker, and there wasn't much, but one item I had was a vegetable peeler.  It has stood me in good stead for 25 years, but finally I noticed that I was having to press harder and harder on it, and decided to replace it.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good peeler?  I bought 4, yes 4 peelers within the span of a year and all have been lemons.  Finally, sick of my complaints, Burt Googled vegetable peelers and found two with superior reviews.  I decided to get both, since one can never have enough peelers, and also backing my odds of finding a good one.  Both, by the way, were just MERELY a tad more expensive than the pieces of junk I had been throwing my money away toward.

The package came, and I immediately tried both right away.  They are different, but both are excellent, and I wonder how in the world I have survived all this time without them.  Suffice it to say that if you have a mediocre peeler, you owe it to yourself to spend 5 or 6 dollars and make your life so much easier.  After all, it's all in the details, right?

So the winners are......

1. KitchenAid Vegetable Peeler.

This was my first choice, as I have always been happy with KitchenAid products.  It gives a deeper peel tham most, taking part of the fruit or vegetable, but it peels well, and without a lot of shenanigins from me, so I like it a lot.

2. Kuhn Vegetable Peeler

This one I would have to say is marginally superior to KitchenAid.  It gives a thinner peel.  It has serrated edges, and I suppose that makes a difference.  It is just amazing at what a difference a decent or even superior peeler makes.

Lesson learned from this: if something is giving you fits, fix it or find a replacement.  Now.  Life is too short to fight a 3 dollar peeler when a 5 dollar one will make your daily life so much less frustrating.

Now that summer is here, please enjoy the fruits and veggies, and use a decent peeler when needed!