Top Ten Favorite Kitchen Items

In case you were curious, here is a peek into my kitchen and the items I grab day in and day out for my cooking. There is nothing extravagant, like the Swiss made Pacojet ice cream maker (please Santa!) or futuristic like this toaster, but these items are all as dear to me as a close friend and make daily cooking a pleasure!

Unfortunately, I haven’t been cooking anything as of late… a vicious post-operative infection has put me on strict bed rest and pumped full of antibiotics. I miss my sunny kitchen. I miss the smell of baking filling the house. I miss picking over fruit at the market and imagining what I will create with it. I miss every item on this top ten list.

At least I am home with my boys!
A massive heartfelt thanks to all the friends and neighbors who have brought over such delicious meals as lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, lemon chicken, noodles, and chicken pot pie, to name a few. Good, home cooked food certainly helps the body heal.

No cooking means no blogging, but thankfully, I have a few post such as this one in the vault, and so I share with you…

My Top Ten Favorite Kitchen Items:

  1. Mac Japanese series 6 1/2 inch vegetable knife.
  2. Finally, a knife that is light enough, I can use it for hours and not get a sore wrist. Not entirely just for vegetables, it slices some pretty sexy sashimi, too.

  3. Roscan Melamine mixing bowls.
  4. Durable, lightweight and heat resistant. I love color and these bowls are a fun and cheery way to mix up anything!

  5. Large wooden cutting board.
  6. Essential for any kitchen, one can never have one too big. Mine has a hundred different uses from basic vegetable prep to cheese board at a party.

  7. All-Clad 10 inch and 8 inch sauté pans.
  8. If the house was on fire, I would probably grab these pans from the kitchen before leaving. Heavy enough to sear a steak or dissolve sugar, these versatile stove top to oven sauté pans just might actually make my food taste better.

  9. Red Le Creuset 7 ¼ quart Round French Oven.
  10. Pasta sauces, curries, stews, you name it, this pot is never empty in my kitchen and never wears out.

  11. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.
  12. A cherished wedding present, this beauty is my third arm. From the softest pizza dough to the fluffiest butter cream, with countless batches of cookies in between- this mixer does it all.

  13. Braun Aromatic Coffee Grinder.
  14. A worthwhile investment, this little coffee grinder works perfectly for grinding my spices and hasn’t been used for coffee in some time. Without it, making those batches of homemade garam masala would be a lot more work. Switching from a curry to cinnamon? Simply pulse some coarse salt through it to remove odors and wipe clean with a dry cloth.

  15. Fine Mesh Sieves.
  16. Irreplaceable in a gourmet’s kitchen and perfect for straining sauces, sifting flours, passing delicate purees, these durable sieves are always with in reach.

  17. Silicone heat resistant spatulas.
  18. The perfect balance between firm and flexible, these spatulas were probably invented by someone who often absentmindedly sets the spatula down on the hot stove next to the pot. Guilty!

  19. Braun Multiquick Handblender.
  20. Where would I be without this immersion blender to puree soups, whip up batches of aioli, foam a sauce, throw together smoothies and do a dozen other tasks for me during the day? Best feature: the removable head allows for a quick clean-up.

Do you have a kitchen item you can’t do with out? Please share!

Top Ten Reasons Why I am Dreading the Approaching Autumn

Some of my favorite summer produce in its prime

1. The inevitable return to routine. Every home has one in the fall, be it structured around school, playgroups, extra curricular activities or social commitments. Somehow we have managed to drift through summer with no real commitments, no schedules and a delicious spontaneity from day to day, but that is soon coming to an end. The phrase “It’s a school night” starts popping up when we have friends over, usually when I am ready to start another round of Canasta or open a new bottle of wine. That sure gets annoying fast.

2. The arrival of Christmas paraphernalia at Costco. Oh, it’s there, all right. I now have to brace myself for the unavoidable onslaught of Christmas propaganda everywhere.

3. Noticing my garden shrivel up, fade away and go to seed before my very eyes. My parsley patch is three feet high and has flowers on it as if to say “I’ve produced enough, thank you, I am now going to flower and die.”

The return to weekly music practices. Now while I do enjoy singing in a local church choir, I find September a tad early to begin rehearsing for the Christmas concert. Another four months of this and I’ll be able to perform sleepwalking. Wait a minute, I’ve been so tired lately from the pregnancy, sleepwalking isn’t far off.

It’s the end of the feast of summer festivals in Montreal with nothing but famine ahead. The major festivities drift away with the last of the hot air balloons in Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu, and not many others come up on my radar until the High Lights Festival in February.

My birthday is in the fall and I am starting to dread getting a year older now that I am reaching the end of my ‘tweens’.

7. The closing of La Ronde. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and even though I can’t go on the rides now that I am pregnant, there is something about seeing the motionless amusement park as I drive over the Jacques Cartier Bridge that seems to signal the end of summer fun.

8. The return of hockey. Now, I have to be very careful what I say here as certain members of my household are avid Habs fans. It’s not that I have anything against hockey, it’s just that perhaps there are some Saturday nights from October through May that I might want to do something other than watch the game, have a one-sided conversation with my husband, or receive a highly-distracted and sporadic back rub.

9. Need I mention approaching cool weather? As I write, I am wearing pants, a sweater, socks, and have a blanket on my lap and I am thinking the pretty sun dress I was planning to wear to tomorrow’s BBQ just isn’t going to be warm enough. The evenings are getting chillier and it’s not hard to imagine the eminent arrival of snow.

10. Probably the thing I dread most about the coming autumn is saying goodbye to gorgeous summer produce; watching the baskets of sweet strawberries get replaced by giant heads of cabbage and leeks the size of my arm. Then there are those annoying people who are falling over themselves to go apple picking as if they haven’t eaten an apple all year long. Although there are days when I can muster it, it’s hard to get excited about the arrival of the common apple in the fall, while all summer I have kept no less than ten kinds of fresh fruit and berries in my fridge and now have to say au revoir to the likes of watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, honeydew and so on…Goodbye, that is, if I keep any sort of grocery budget and I have any sort of palate as the prices jump and the flavor plummets come Labor Day weekend. Sure I love the fall vegetable line-up as much as then next chef, but when my local market is selling 10 lbs of beets for $2.99 and asparagus for $4.99/lb, it’s no secret that the fall veggies just aren’t as glamorous as the summer varieties. And who doesn’t love glam?!

Top Ten Dining Out Pet Peeves

I admit, I have high standards,

but it’s because I know how restaurants work-or should work. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know the inner tickings of the friendly neighborhood bistro, the popular breakfast joint, or the ever-so-snooty fine dining establishment. It’s like every time I eat out, I am filling out my very own comment card in my head. I can’t help it. The higher priced the menu, the higher my standards.
But shouldn’t it be that way?

If I am paying good money for this dining experience, I expect to have a satisfying outcome in return.

Sadly, that is seldom the case.

Top 10 Dining Out Pet Peeves:

1. Waiting.

.. for the menus, for the food, for the bill. Just waiting for a long time. Waiting for food really gets me squirming. There are times when I know I could hit the kitchen, single-handedly slap out the food for each person at my table and sit back down in about seven minutes. Why the huge waits? And don’t even think about serving the table next to me, who ordered after me, before you bring my food.

2. Bad Waiters

: the Snooty, the Sloppy, the Slacker, the Snoopy! They really deserve their own top10 pet peeves, but I won’t bother. Besides, as a chef, it’s kind of like our motto to hate waiters. Sorry, but in the professional kitchen they are the enemy and we have our reasons.

3. Cold food

. Cold food makes me boil with annoyance. I know it’s not that hard to get a hot plate out. Be it the kitchen’s shortcoming or the waiters oversight, it makes me want to get up, march into the kitchen and start a grease fire.“Oh! This is your deep-fry fat, right? Well, take that!” Boom.

4. Mixed up orders

: Waiters. This is your job. How hard is it (especially when you are writing it down) to convey what I am saying to you back to the kitchen? Kitchen’s fault? Then why did you bring it out to me? If you think maybe I won’t notice, then you’ve got the wrong customer.

5. Annoying Customers

around you. This can’t really be helped. As people watching is one of the many great perks to eating out, you kind of have to take the wheat with the chaff. Still, irritating can-only-speak-at-100-decibels-into-my-cellphone guy at the next table should only

be allowed to eat take out Chinese. At home. By himself.

6. Stupid Rules

: Like you can only eat if you drink or drink if you eat. You know the places I’m talking about. You’re out at the pub with a few friends and you just want an iced tea and a basket of crab cakes. “Sorry Madame, I can only bring you those crab cakes if you order some alcohol” Are you kidding me? Guess the costumer is not always right.

7. Cheesy Theme Menus

or items with stupid names like “The Prune Pit

-for people on the go” or whatever. Menus with ‘funny’ or ‘cutsy’ names annoy the heck out of me and I have a theory that abuse of the English language usually leads to abuse of food. Also, I have issues with absurdly lengthy menus. Longer is not better.

8. Bad Tables

: Every restaurant has them. The drafty one near the door; another one next to the kitchen’s swinging doors (that give glimpses into a world you really, really didn’t need to know about); the one in the middle of the thoroughfare where you can count how many times the pregnant chick goes the bathroom because she bumps your chair every time….Bad tables can ruin a night out.

9. Overpriced Menus

: I’m not talking about expensive menus, as those are often justified by high quality food, but the place that has no special view, no celeb chef, no prime location, but still decides they can charge $18.95 for Penne Arrabiata and $27.95 for a chicken breast a la blah blah blah.

10. Pushy Sommeliers:

I like to choose my own wine when I go out. I know some sommeliers can be very helpful, but they are generally pretty snooty and always trying to steer me toward the pricier bottles. There should also be no eyebrow raising if I just decide to order by the glass- or not at all.

With all the possible things that could go wrong during a meal out, you would think I would be inclined to save my money and stay home; however, it may surprise you that I DO enjoy most of my dining experiences, and when I don’t feel like taking the risk, there’s always take-out.

Top Ten Ways I am Making Every Day “Earth Day”

“It doesn’t feel hotter to me.”
— George W. Bu

New Years Resolution 2007: Reduce My Ecolog

ical Footprint.

If you talk to anyone out there, they will admit they could be doing more to save the planet. An overused phrase, yes, but after watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, it took on a new meaning. While I am certainly no expert in this area (that’s my brother-in-law, Kevin) I can still educate myself and make more of an effort to be environmentally friendly.

Here’s how:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

    . I’ve always been a fan of 2nd hand stuff and always recycled of course, but now we are getting really serious. We’re recycling stuff like batteries and donating unwanted household items to charity instead of pitching them.

    We also got a second recycling bin for glass, metal and plastic so we don’t just recycle the various newspapers and flyers that come to our house.

  1. Cloth Diapers

    instead of disposable. These just use water, a renewable resource, and some biodegradable soap to stay clean and don’t contribute a thing to landfill. Here’s an article you MUST read before deciding to use disposable diapers, which highlights that they are in fact NOT disposable and are a leading contributor to landfills. I love my cloth diapers; not only are they eco-friendly, but they save us a ton of money and are better for Noah’s bum as they don’t have all the chemicals in them that disposables have.

  1. Push-Reel Lawnmower.

    In one hour of operation, a conventional gas lawn mower (two-stroke) pollutes as much as 40 new cars. Just imagine how much pollution is being created in a typical suburb on a summer weekend! I love our quiet, pollutant-free push mower and it’s great exercise too!

  1. Reusable Shopping Bags:

    Bringing along reusable cotton bags for groceries and errand running.

  1. Biodegradable Soap

    : both dish soap and laundry detergent. Fortunately, these have become easier to find and much more affordable in recent years. We like the brand Biovert.

  1. Composting

    : I compost kitchen scraps, leaves, and grass trimmings. This, combined with recycling, cuts my garbage output by 50% and helps fertilize my garden, too!

  1. Energy efficient light bulbs

    . Compact fluorescents use around 70% less energy than a regular bulb. This is an easy way to save energy for anyone.

    Just remember this – we learned that they burn out quite quickly when used with dimmers.

  1. Energy Saving:

    Using cold water to wash clothes to reduce hot water usage and by using a clothes line in summer. Also keeping thermostats lower and wearing a sweater instead of cranking the heat (which Danny always chides me for doing).

  1. Less a Car/Walking: Owning just one car for our family and leaving it at home more often for errand running and market shopping.
  1. Buying locally grown produce

    …in order to support local farmers and also eating more fresh, organic foods, which aren’t sprayed.

    According to the average meal in the US travels 1,200 miles from the farm to your plate. Buying locally will save fuel and keep money in your community. Also, frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.

Interested in making some changes also? Visit action

Top 10 Useless Kitchen Gadgets

Some of the following material contains adult subject matter. Reader discretion is advised.
First off let me just say that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, I am a firm believer of that. So before you go and get your shirt in a knot, remember that this is just my (experienced professional) opinion and if you happen to have one of these gadgets and use it and love it, that’s just fine too. Whatever makes you happy! Granted this is a bit of a rant on my part, but I also want to point out that sometimes, no matter what some commercial is telling you, you DON’T need a gadget for every job. You would never see any of these item in a professional kitchen, that’s how useless they are.
Today, consumerism is rampant and we could learn a lesson or two from the Chinese. Do you thinkthat in the average kitchen in China they have a tool for every little job? No, there’s a good wok, a cleaver, a steamer for rice and a few odds and ends. Watch the movie Eat Drink Man Woman; the father can practically peel a grape with a cleaver.
Remember: never underestimate a good sharp knife! It gets the job done. Even for an Octodog (see below)
On more thing. I chose these from hundreds of similar gadgets, utensils and contraptions that I have seen and heard of over the years. Maybe they aren’t the most useless of them all, but I find them the most common and the most annoying. That said, here they are!

Top Ten Useless Kitchen Gadgets ( in random order)

  1. Mushroom Brush. I always see these sitting on the edge of people’s sinks, looking filthy, and I can’t help wondering if they double as nail brushes, pot scrubbers, etc. Disgusting. Are the mushrooms really so dirty that we need to have these brushes on hand at all times? Guess what? I never clean my button mushrooms. Ok, if there’s a huge clump of dirt clinging on, I’ll get it with my knife.
  2. Turkey Baster. I’ve never met anyone who actually uses theirs, but I have heard of people who have used them to assist in getting pregnant. They look so dumb, are usually in old 70’s colors and take up space in a drawer 364 days out of the year. Have a dry bird? Use your gravy ladle. I know you have one of those if you’re cooking a turkey.
  3. Corn Holders. People collect these like they are going out of style. Would it actually be so wrong to hold the corn with your hands? Too hot? Who’s going to bite into an ear of corn if it’s too hot to even handle? Again, I know people who have service for 20, but have never used them.
  4. Garlic Presses. More like garlic juicers. None of which have ever successfully pressed a peeled garlic clove. You end up loosing half of the garlic in the press, plus, have you ever cleaned one of these??? I’d rather rince a knife blade under water than spend ten minutes picking garlic out of the little holes. People are always shocked and dismayed that I don’t have a garlic press. Listen up, I don’t care. It’s against my unspoken culinary code of conduct. Same goes for garlic peelers: it’s so much easier to whack a clove with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Gets rid of frustration too. (Also, from a gourmet’s perspective, size matters. Crushed, pulverized garlic emits the most intense flavor. Sometimes you need a more subtle hint of garlic in a dish and thinly sliced would work best here. See what I mean?)
  5. Melon Ball Scooper. Didn’t know that melons had balls? Suprise! Apparently they need a lot of scooping. This technique is so 80’s, you’re dating yourself if you serve these in a fruit salad. Don’t want to get rid of it? Use it to scoop cookie dough to make perfectly shaped little balls of goodness.
  6. Apple Peeler, corer, slicer, etc. When did it become so much work to peel an apple?? These things are so ridiculous. First of all, look at the size of this contraption. Compare the valuable cupboard space it takes up to a slender vegetable peeler. Now haul it out of that box, mount that apple, blab blah blah. Clean it and put it back in the cupboard, way in the back with all the other stuff you use once a year. Oh look, I’ve already peeled a bushel of apples with my little peeler.
  7. Egg Separator. This is a device that is supposed to hold the yolk while allowing the white to drop into a dish. These are getting more and more elaborate by the year. (see above photo.) It’s easier – much easier – to use the broken eggshell, and much, much sexier to strain it through your fingers. Yea so you have to wash your hands after. Well, you should always wash your hands after handling eggs anyway.
  8. Electric Carving Knife. Don’t get me started. If I ever have one of these, just shoot me. Enough said.
  9. Measuring Spoons with a ‘pinch’, ‘smidgeon’, ‘dash’, etc. PulEEZe. You know you’ve seen these. If you happen to own then I hope they were a gag gift.
  10. Bagel Slicer. Now these are downright dangerous no matter what the add says. This one is actually called the Bagel Guillotine Biter. Need I say more? Bagel Guillotine Biter. Oops, there goes a finger. (I also have no use for hardboiled egg slicers, avocado slicers, etc) Apparently there are a lot of people out there who are having trouble slicing their bagels. Now you can buy them pre-sliced, people. Whew. Solving the worlds problems, one at a time. Note: the Bagel Guillotine website would like us to know that their product has been clocked at slicing 20 bagels per minute. Who are these people who are eating 20 bagels in the morning?? I’ll tell you what. You have 20 -or 40, or 400- bagels to slice and I’ll come over and slice them personally. Just don’t ask me to use an electric knife.

And as a bonus, I present the all-time worst kitchen gadget I have ever seen: The OCTODOG. This is from, but I’m afraid of posting the picture on my blog, so you’ll have to link to their site if you want to see this monstrosity. But if you’ve read this far, I bet you do.