Archive for category Kitchen

Frozen Ingredients Ready To Use: a good shortcut for busy, city mums that love cooking

Cook's Ingredients Frozen Herbs

Waitrose Frozen Cook’s Ingredients

I love cooking but with work and the kids there is never enough time so I am happy to consider a few shortcuts. Here is one of my favourites.
Since a girlfriend made me discover them, I have become addicted to frozen, ready to use, cooking ingredients.
Garlic and onions are the ones I use the most but there are plenty more of them to chose from (lemon grass, shallots, basil, ginger, chives, coriander, mint, chillies and more) and they are all cleaned, washed, chopped and ready to use straight from frozen.
Although there are a few brands around, my favourites are the Cook’s Ingredients by Waitrose. They are high quality (I noticed the onions are cleaned better and chopped finely) and have a nice range of interesting pre-mixed selections. I love their Thai Mix, a well balanced mixture of lemongrass, coriander, ginger, chilli and garlic – just perfect in almost any oriental dish.

Frozen ingredients are not perfect:
1) They can be a bit too wet (this is mostly an issue with herbs-garlic and onions are fine),
2) Their taste is a bit tamed when compared to the fresh ones,
3) At times the herbs freeze into big clusters so you need a knife or a hammer to break them down into more manageable pieces and
4) They won’t help you much in garnishing your dishes (again this is mostly an issue with herbs).

But here is why I always want to have them in my freezer:

-They save me the time, work and tears of preparing fresh ingredients (I have to admit peeling and chopping onions and garlic is not one of my favourites and is time consuming – I am fine washing and preparing basil leaves!).
-I just use what I need every time I cook – I have less waste and no more half empty bags sitting in the fridge and often forgotten before I need them again.
– Even if I prefer the ‘fresh staff’ it is so handy to always keep a pack in the freezer in case of emergency.
– Last but not least, the pricing of frozen herbs is more reasonable than the packs of fresh herbs in supermarkets. Tesco retails a bag of 30gr of Basil at 70p which is GBP 23 per kg! I can instead buy my frozen ingredients when they are on offer (2 packs of 75 gr for GBP 2.50) which I find acceptable.

And another thing, I’ve read a tip for keeping alive for longer the pots of herbs you find in supermarkets: re-potting them into larger or multiple pots. Apparently they’re planted densely to look better but the roots can be too crammed for them to survive! Worth a try…

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Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Frying Pan – Simply the Best

Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Frying Pan

Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Frying Pan

This is for me, a luxury worth having. It is more expensive than many on the market (GBP 60/70 for a 24/26cm diameter) but is worth every penny. A girlfriend recommended it to me after hearing about my last frying pan disappointment and I am super happy with it. It’s heavier than other frying pans but lighter than a cast iron pan. It comes in different sizes and 2 depths (shallow or deep). Glass lids are also available but need to be bought separately. It is worth noting that the lid handle is quite deep. Depending on the size and depth of the pan you choose, the lid may not fit inverted in the pan, which makes this a larger item to store. I bought the 26cm, ‘deep’ size and I find it perfect for our everyday needs.

What I like about it:
1) It really does not stick. I had it for more than 1 year now, I use it every day and it still works beautifully. All the others that I tried (the Original Green Pan, Tefal, Circulon and Berndes) work ok for the first few months but then lose their non-stick properties. Even if I hand washed them and treated them carefully.
2) Ideal for healthier cooking with very little oil or fat. You can even cook completely without oil.
3) It heats evenly on any type of hob.
4) The handles remain cool and don’t work themselves loose.
5) Easy to clean. As the food does not stick you will just need some warm soapy water.
6) Oven and dishwasher safe. I wash it by hand, though, as it is so easy to clean as I don’t want to risk damaging it.

Other things to know:
1) Works also on induction hobs.
2) The guide recommends to wipe the pan down with oil before the first usage (and every now and then) to keep the non-stick properties. I did it before the first use but I have not done it again. The pan looks fine but I think is worth doing. It is also recommended to: a) use non-stick cleaning pads, b) use plastic or wood (not metal) cooking utensils, and c) avoid using for long periods of time at very high heat settings.

 

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Sainsbury’s SO Organic Soft Cheese: good, organic cream cheese for babies, toddlers and the whole family

Sainsbury's Organic Soft Cheese

Sainsbury’s Organic Soft Cheese

Cream cheese is a very useful basic ingredient to have at home when you are cooking for babies and toddlers. You can use it to transform any little meal: instead of sauce on a quick pasta, added to your vegetables purees, on fish, on bread sticks. The applications are endless. After some searching I stumbled on this one that seems more appropriate for the younger members of the family.

What I like about the Sainsbury’s SO Organic Soft Cheese is:

1) Organic! So few are. Hopefully it means less nasties. I actually checked. I emailed Sainsbury’s and they said that there are only 4 ingredients in this cream cheese: milk, cream from cow milk, salt and lactic starter culture. Sounds good to me.
2) Full fat – 25g per 100gr of product, as it should be for babies and toddlers.
3) Acceptable level of sodium 0.22g per 100gr (versus Philadelphia Original 0.40gr per 100gr)
4) Acceptable level of sugars 2.8gr per 100 gr (Philadelphia Original has 3.2gr per 100gr)
5) Great value £1.65/250 gr unit or £6.60/kg (Philadelphia Original retails at £8.00/kg).

The other good news is that it is easy to find. Your local Sainsbury’s should stock it. In my family everybody loves it.

P.S. There is another nice (and much more expensive) organic cream cheese called Futura. But is always out of stock these days.

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