Introduction to Spices
And now for the second part of the fun stuff, SPICES! Spices were originally a trading commodity, hence the term “the spice route”. But that’s a whole other story. Here’s the quick history, for those who want to be in the know.
Spices were originally considered not essential, but considered a luxury item. They were very expensive. Rumor has it in the old days, the executive chef tasted the food you, as a sous chef, line cook, etc, made before adding any spices. If the food wasn’t up to his standards, the food got thrown out and you had to start over again. That way the expensive spices weren’t wasted. Imagine making a dish without any flavor other than the food and deciding by that taste alone to see if it was good enough to put the additional flavor of spice in?
Carla did an exceptional job on this lesson. I was literally stopping every three seconds to take notes. I wished it was longer, because I wanted to know more. And more! She was a little dramatic in this lesson, as there was no dryness in her tone at all, but then spices can do that to you. She was very excited about the topic, and I could tell she was trying to get the audience excited about it too. “Peacock” she was shouting. Read more
The Herb Garden
HERB! What a wonderful thing to have. I have one of those Aero Garden things. I tried to grow herbs, but someone (I’m not saying who) over fed them, and they died rather quickly. The dill and the basil were being bullies and keeping the poor parsley herbfrom growing to its full potential, so I decided to give myself a break while I do some scientific research before I try again. This time, I will go with a custom blend of herbs, so I can control them, instead of them controlling me, and driving me mad. If you want to have a go at it yourself, here’s what I bought. I bought it at Sur La Table, but here’s the Aerogarden website if you want more options.
The best thing to start with is one or two small pots of your favorite herb. It will give your kitchen a wonderful smell, and with a set of kitchen shears I know you already have, you can add some nice depth of flavor to your meals.
Here’s a good article about using and storing fresh herbs in your kitchen, with a great infographic to put onto your pinterest account. You do have a pinterest account, don’t you?
Just remember, fresh herbs will usually last a week or two in the refrigerator. Dried will last you a good year. Keep them away from the stove and the sunlight. You can find a little more about herbs form my review on the Top Chef Lesson on Herbs here.
Did you know herbs were once considered only for medicinal purposes? Are you coughing? Add rosemary. What about a stomach ache? Use mint. Basil is supposed to help you when you are feeling down. Here’s a handy chart with some basics. Luckily we have advanced, but it’s a little tidbit to file away for a party. Read more
Food Temperatures – What is This All About?
Do you watch Hell’s Kitchen? I do, religiously. He’s always saying “It’s f*@$ing raw!” He yells at the chef contestants for attempting to serve undercooked chicken to pregnant women. He smashes fish fillets that are raw. “Touch it, it’s ice cold.” “I’m sorry, chef, it’s just a little underdone.” “Bloody hell, it’s ice cold!” It’s all about the food temperature!
It’s not for dramatic purposes. Okay, some of it is. And it does make for dramatic and entertaining television.
But, he also says this because we need to have a minimum food temperature (for any kind of protein) so it is safe for us to eat and not get sick. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to go to the hospital because of something I ate. Especially if I was the one who cooked it!
He also makes the chef contestants touch the steaks, and asks them what temperature it is. “I asked for it medium, not bloody overcooked!” he screams, as everyone in the restaurant looks on. That is because a chef learns how to know the temperature of the steak by the firmness of the meat when it is cooked (or not cooked). If it’s soft, it’s rare, but when it’s hard, it’s well done. This is sometimes done because chefs know what temperature is best for a steak, but it is also up to the customer. If they want it cremated, the chef should cook it until it is burned beyond recognition.
So learning about food temperatures is very important for cooking, for enjoyment, and for health. Read more
ANTIQUE FURNITURE KNOWLEDGE
Antique furniture knowledge is a scary proposition for any diy home goddess. “How am I supposed to know if a piece of furniture is an antique?” you are shouting at me. I can hear you. I promise I can! There are so many fakes out there, you remind me. Reproduction pieces. Revival pieces. Good ones. Bad ones. How can a diy home goddess tell if what she is looking at is real?
The top is original antique, but the legs are refurbished and recently made.
Well, I am not an expert on antique furniture knowledge by any means. I did lots of research and collected some books (see later on in the post for my recommended research).
I have gotten taken a time or two, like when I picked up a couple of night stands at an antique flea market, when the dealer said they were mahogany, a matched set, and pretty old. Nope! They were maybe forty years old. And they were definitely not mahogany. The wood was too soft, which I found out when I tried to sand off the layers of paint!
I have found antiques by accident as well, vintage furniture like my poker table, by looking up the label on the underside while I was considering the purchase, as well as items such my radio, which they sold me as one from the 1950’s, when I found out later is was only made in 1938 and 1939! It’s a matter of doing some research first.
What Is An Antique?