VACUUM SEALING SYSTEM: KITCHEN MUST-HAVE
When you think of vacuum sealing machine, you think food. So true, and so very important. After all, food is a basic need. And with factors like global warming, worldwide poverty, food shortage and different illnesses affecting produce, food preservation can become more of a necessity. Seriously think about investing on a vacuum sealing system.
How vacuum-sealing works:
When you vacuum-seal, it means you remove air from the inside of the bag or jar. Without oxygen, there is no moisture, and bacteria cannot thrive, thus eliminating spoilage.
Top reasons why you should buy a vacuum-sealing system:
- It is a must for food storage for longer period. There are other methods of food storage like drying, freezing, refrigerating and a whole lot more. Vacuum-sealing works best when used with these other methods. Vacuum-seal meat before putting it in the freezer. Vacuum-seal fruits in Mason jar for dry-canning. Or, you can dry out fish, then vacuum-seal it. When food is vacuum-sealed, its freshness is retained and the food is preserved for years;
- Meal planning is made easy. You can cook up a storm over the weekends, or during sleepless nights, and then store it in vacuum-sealed bags. Over the week, you can remove the prepared food and just heat it up for a quick meal. You can also bring your lunch to the office quite easily;
- You can re-seal liquids. When you open a soda or wine or vinegar, it changes the quality of your liquid. You either consume it fast, or you can vacuum-seal it and use it for another occasion. Bottle stoppers are used to vacuum-seal liquids;
- Metals are prone to corrode. Preserve your favorite silver from your parents by vacuum-sealing it. Don’t forget to wrap the sharp edges and points with a cloth so it wouldn’t pierce through the plastic;
- Re-seal opened Mylar bags or chips. Perhaps you opened a Mylar bag of coffee that you’d like to save for special guests. It would be best to vacuum-seal it close again to preserve the flavor. We like to put clips to seal opened bags of chips, but it can only protect it from spilling out, but not from losing its crunch. If you want to save your chips for the next big game on TV, you can seal it again. For chips, just seal without using the vacuum function so you don’t lose crush the contents;
- Make your own emergency kit. If you are going camping, aside from bringing necessary supplies, you may want to make an emergency bag with extra supply of matches and medicines. If you are travelling, make extra copies of your passport and tickets, which you can vacuum-seal and place in your bag. It will be protected from the liquids that you may have in there;
- Be a wise traveler. When you vacuum-seal your clothes, it gives you extra room in the luggage. It also makes it easy to segregate types of clothing, like sweaters together, underwear in another;
- Be a wise keeper of things. When winter is finally over, get those bulky blankets and sweaters and vacuum-seal it in a bag before putting in the closet.
Factors to consider before buying a vacuum-sealing system:
- How much are you willing to invest? There are different brands and models. It can range from $400 to over a thousand. The kinds of vacuum-sealing systems according to functions are:
- Chamber vacuum-sealer
- Clamp vacuum-sealer
- Retractable nozzle vacuum-sealer
- What do you need it for? Will it be for personal use or for business? If you plan to sell fruits that are vacuum-sealed, then you must get a bigger model that can do more seals with no downtime in between. For smaller models with smaller motors, it needs a few minutes in between seals for the motor to cool down;
- Do you have space? Some models will require much space on your countertop. Will you be using it at home or bringing it around with you? Weight would have to be considered if you plan to lug it around;
- Are you adept at operating gadgets? Some people can’t even get the hang of which side of the stapler to use. Look for a model that you can easily learn to operate. Some may have more buttons than you need.
- Remember the accessories. Some models will need additional accessories that may not come with the package, so be ready to spend for that. There may be jar sealer attachments needed if you want to use it on mason jars.
Ready, get set, seal!
NEWBIE CHEF: Gas or Induction Cooker?
You have just discovered your talents in the kitchen and excited to transform your humble cooking area into a haven with the best equipment there is. After deciding on the color of your tiles, you are down to choosing between a gas stove and an induction cooker.
This is the kitchen appliance you may have grown up with. It uses natural gas, butane, propane or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to cook.
- Heat is immediately turned on the instant you open the fire. Having a visual of the actually fire also helps in adjusting the size of it;
- Easy heat adjustments make accurate cooking temperature, so there are no surprises there;
- Any kind of cookware may be used on a gas stove top;
- Heat is evenly distributed so no scorched foods;
- There is some degree of being in control when you have your hands on the knobs controlling the temperature;
- Gas stoves are cheaper than induction;
- There is no need for electric power so you can cook through a power outage.
- The physical presence of fire can burn you or the kitchen towel you are holding;
- Fire can warm up your kitchen, which can be stifling in the summer;
- Gas leaks may happen;
- The gas stove may be a bit more difficult to clean, with grease and food excess;
- A gas stove may take up some space in your kitchen.
This kind of cooker uses magnetic induction to cook the food. It directly heats the cooking pot through its coil of copper wire placed right under the pot and the alternating electric current that passes through it. The result is a magnetic field which magnetizes the pot, producing eddy currents in the pot that heats it.
- The heat is used to cook, and none is wasted. Gas cookers convert the energy to heat before it can cook. With induction cookers, when you turn it on, it is already heat working to cook the food;
- The kitchen is cooler, because the heat is centered on the cooking pot alone;
- Since only a limited area is heated, specifically the area under the pot, there is lesser risk of someone getting burned;
- Since it only heats certain ferrous metals, even if you place your hand over an induction cooker, it will not be burned. Just remove any jewelry before experimenting on that;
- It is a beauty. Induction cookers are usually thin, only about two inches of depth below the countertop so it does not stand out like a white elephant;
- It runs by electricity, so there is no danger of gas leaks;
- No hazards that come from burning gas.
- Induction cookers are a bit more pricey than gas ranges;
- It can only work with very specific kinds of cookware, made of magnetic materials like stainless steel and cast iron;
- These kind of cookware are more commonly available now, but tends to be more expensive than the usual kind;
- When the power is out, cooking is out of the question. Might as well open a can;
- No flame means no charring of some favorite vegetables, like peppers.
At the end of the day, it may come down to the dollar sign. How much will you have to spend for a gas stove, how much for an induction cooker? More than that, if you are getting an induction cooker, you might have to spend on your cookware, too, so make sure to factor in their costs.
Once you make an informed decision, start cooking!
WELCOME TO OUR HOME
Every inch of your home is an expression of yourself. Whether you hired a professional decorator or you are a weekend warrior with do-it-yourself projects, your design, your layout and your decorations reflect your personality.
THE NEW LIVING ROOM
Gone are the days that guests are entertained in the living room. The dining area and the kitchen have become the new-age living room, where guests are welcomed. This change in the lifestyle can be attributed to how cooking has changed in its function and personality. In the bygone days, cooking was a dirty task relegated to the kitchen staff. They prepare the magic behind doors, and only come out bearing the beautifully-displayed entrees. These days, everyone Is a chef, and cooking has become a form of entertainment by itself.
Change in architecture and design has also influenced this new trend. Previously, kitchens were closed and separated from the eating area. But now, open spaces have also welcomed the kitchen as an annex to the dining area, very much visible and accessible. Keep the conversation with your guests flowing as you expertly mix the salad.
Maybe it’s the deluge of cooking shows on TV, but cooking as a task has also evolved into an art. Cooking and eating have become interactive. You smell burgers grilling and people are milling around eating , preparing their own burgers while talking and laughing. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese dish, and in some shabu-shabu restaurants, the clients themselves do the cooking. This can also be duplicated even in your home, and is most fun with guests.
With the kitchen and dining room playing such important roles, how do you prepare?
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR YOUR KITCHEN AND DINING ROOM
- Think like a guest. Enter your dining room through the door or opening where your guests will be entering. What would be the first thing they will see? Whatever that is, it has to be something you like, something that speaks about you. If it can’t be helped, and the refrigerator is the first thing they see, then dress up your ref with personalized magnets or artworks of the children;
- Clean even unseen areas, because you never know what circumstances await you and your guests. These includes areas at the back of your stove, under your sink and even inside your refrigerator. You don’t want trash littered in there, or worst, insects;
- Create the ambiance with music and lighting. You can install speakers in the kitchen for some soothing music, which you can change to some upbeats should you feel the urge to dance after a heavy meal. You can put some colored lights in some places for some mood lighting. Upward lights make great drama, and you can put one in a corner;
- Scent up the room with more than just the scent of the food, unless you are having fish. You can use scented candles, diffusers or linen fragrance to make your room smell fresh. Remember, the scent will cling unto your guests’ clothes, and we don’t want them to go home smelling like the food they ate;
- Beautify the space with flowers or candles or lanterns. You can also use your kitchen or dining ware to complement the whole concept or color scheme. Even if it is just an informal dinner for friends, your extra touch will make a difference in making it special. If you don’t have much to play with, personalize it with napkin holders you can easily make in your own printer. If you are serving Mexican food, put a Mexican cap in the design, and it’s all good.
While your dining and kitchen area will be the stars of the party, second to the food, the host – meaning you – will play a big role in ensuring your guests will not only enjoy the food, but the overall experience itself. So relax and just have a great time. Your easy smile would be most contagious.
You have to periodically run a check of your kitchen gadgets and equipment to make sure it is clean and in good working condition.
The first tip is to keep it clean. After using a gadget, clean it immediately, and not days after. For example, your food processor. Right after using, put water inside so the remaining food will not stick. If it does, it is harder to remove.
The second tip is to maintain it. If your two-burner oven has one faulty burner, don’t sit back and say, ‘it’s okay, there’s still one I can use’. Instead, call the expert and have it fixed right away, because if the one and only working burner suddenly stops working, too, you would be cooking in your microwave.
- Sink disposal. It has to be kept clean and the blades sharp. Keeping it clean makes sure there are no germs living in food debris trapped in there, and thus no foul smell from spoiled food. You can do a weekly check and cleaning by freezing vinegar into ice cubes. Then pour these into the disposal. It will remove odors and will also sharpen your blades.
- Range hood filters. You can actually remove the filter and clean it. Use a degreaser and hot water. You can get the degreaser from an auto parts store.
- Fire extinguishers. Every kitchen should have one. Keep note of its expiration date. Check the gauge if it has adequate pressure. More than that, just make sure you have the fire extinguisher exactly where you intend it to be. Sometimes, kids may play with it, or someone may have used it as a doorstop. Keep it near the cooking area at all times.
- Dishwasher. Wipe it thoroughly, then sprinkle just a cup of baking power inside the dishwasher. Run a short cycle to remove dirt and smell.
- Microwave. You are to wipe clean your microwave after every use. But if you don’t have the luxury of time, you can do a weekly check and clean-up. Use wet cloth to wipe. Do the inside first, then wash your cloth before doing the outside. Remove the turntable, wash it and drip dry before putting it back in. make sure you return it properly on its ridges.
- Refrigerators. It is one of the usually overlooked appliances in the kitchen despite its size. Check the gaskets on the door to make sure it closes and seals properly. To be sure, put paper money on the door, between the gaskets. Try to pull it out without opening the door. If you are able to take it out, it means your refrigerator door does not close properly. Check the light if it functions. Wipe down the inside and outside using clean wet cloth.
- Gas range. You have to periodically check for leaks. Any leak is dangerous. Because gas, in small amount, cannot be smelled, it can be dangerous to your health. These days, we have the electronic gas detector that can give off a visual and audio alarm when gas is present. There are small, pocket-size detectors that operate on AAA batteries. You can use this to check for leaks.
These are just the big items to maintain, but don’t forget the smaller ones. The first step is cleanliness, because a well-cleaned gadget will give optimum function. Even your knife needs to be re-sharpened at intervals. You can take a morning to soak your wooden spoons in soapy hot water to disinfect them. These are little tools, and little things you can do, but they go a long way to serving you for a long time.
You have just perfected your first egg omelet, and you think you are ready to cook like a pro. You excitedly make a list of tools, gadgets and cookware you want to buy, and realize it would take a lot of money to get it right.
When you talk about a perfect working condition in a kitchen, you need preparation tools and utensils, cooking tools and utensils, cookware, pans and electric appliances. But you don’t have to overwhelm yourself, or your wallet, if you are just starting out. Here are our recommended must-have’s if you are a kitchen newbie:
- Pots and pans of good quality. Don’t skimp on these items, because you will be using it every day. Buy a couple of sizes. A smaller one if you are cooking for just one or two, and a bigger one if you plan to entertain at home. You can get a deep sauté pan for frying, but should be deep enough for other purposes, too, like making soups or sauces.
- Chef’s knife. If you had the budget, you can go for the full set, but for now, you can start with just one. Try a size of 8 inches. Go for a sturdy material of solid forged steel, with full tang, solid riveted construction and a balanced handle. It will do the job for boning chicken, cutting meat, chopping vegetables.
- Cutting board. You can opt for the wooden kind, or a heavy-duty plastic with rubberized grips. Try to have two boards, one for the raw, and one for the cooked items. But if you can only buy one for now, make sure to wash thoroughly in between using it for raw and cooked.
- Casserole dish. It can be used for both cooking and for serving food on the table, like a hot dish of lasagna. Get one that’s made with glazed ceramic because it heats food evenly and is non-stick, especially with that gooey cheese in the lasagna.
- A set of wooden spoons for stirring, tasting and all other magical stuff it does. Get one in assorted shapes and sizes – a round-head, a flat-head, and a slotted spoon. One of the big reasons why wooden spoons are preferred is that it does not scratch the surfaces of the pans. It also has high tolerance for heat, but is insulated so it does not affect the heat of your cooking, which helps if you are cooking something sensitive to temperature change.
- If you can only buy one electronic gadget, let it be the food processor. It will be make your cooking a bit easier. It’s a blender with many blades depending on how you want to use it. It can help in chopping, grinding, shredding and mixing food ingredients. You can puree soup, mix sauces and dips.
Lastly, but very importantly, don’t forget your own kitchen wear – your apron and gloves. The apron will keep you from getting dirty and from getting germs. It also protects your clothing from getting in harm’s way, like hot oil when frying or even from catching fire. Meanwhile you use an oven glove when you are handling something hot. It protects your hand from getting burned.
My spouse is a great cook, but she often leaves the kitchen in full disarray after a cooking session. Since I am the one who eats most of her delicious cooking, I am left with the task of cleaning up after her. Since we have been married for quite a number of years, I have become an expert, and am sharing these great tips with you:
How to Keep your Kitchen Squeaky Clean
- Clean as you go. When you are peeling, peel right into the trash can, or into a plate. You can do your peeling in one session, and then you can throw out the gathered peels all together. When you open a can and empty its contents into a bowl, throw away the can immediately. Don’t let it clutter your work area;
- Re-use spoons or ladles. When you are cooking, you stir or taste your food. You use a ladle or a spoon, and then you put it into the sink. When you taste again, you use another new spoon, and put it in the sink again. Put a bowl of clean water near you. In between stirs and tastings, put your spoon in there. However, if you are cooking more than just one dish simultaneously, use different spoons and bowls so your dishes will not taste all the same;
- Do a list of daily, weekly and bi-weekly cleanings. You can schedule a daily wipe of your surfaces, a weekly cleaning of the oven and perhaps a bi-weekly cleaning of all the cupboards. This way, you don’t do everything at just one time. Whew, that would take too much energy.
- Clean your sponges. You think because it is soaked in soapy water most times it is squeaky clean. On the contrary, because it is kept moist most times, bacteria thrive. Bacteria from the raw foods or vegetables we clean off the sink, and bacteria which we transfer to our utensils when we wash them. Use different sponges depending on the degree of dirt of the items washed. It is good to at least have two, one for washing items that were used on raw food, and another for cooked food. You can color-code your sponges for easy identification. If I wash the cutting board where I cut up raw chicken, I use green sponge. When I wash the plate where I ate the fried chicken, I use yellow sponge. Another good tip is to soak your sponge in hot, soapy water at the end of the day. Squeeze it through while in the water to get the dirt out, then rise off the soap, and squeeze dry. Let your sponge drip dry overnight.
- Keep the trash area clean and orderly. Try to separate the raw foods from the other trash. During the day, you can leave a big container out for peelings, cuttings from chicken, meat or fish. Keep these separate because you can use these if you compost. If you don’t, keep it separate until you are finally throwing out the trash. Otherwise, these easy-to-rot items will stink your whole trash.
It is important to keep your kitchen clean so you can serve clean food to your family. Cleanliness is not just an issue about vanity, but an issue about health. Stay healthy, keep clean.