My Inherited Kitchen

Cooking for people who can't cook but now have to

Month: February 2017

Frozen chicken breast

How do I defrost a frozen chicken breast?

You have just realised that you forgot to get a frozen chicken breast out of the freezer and you are about to make dinner. Now what?  You could just swear a bit and then have something else. Unless of course that needed defrosting too!

Whenever I look at product packaging for things that can be frozen it nearly always says thaw in the fridge overnight or sometimes for 24 hours.  I could stave to death.  There must be easier ways.  You could try a very low heat in the oven or microwave but the instruction books say very little about how long it should take. Leave a product for too long and/or at too high a temperature and it will start to cook.  This is not a good idea.

The solution for frozen chicken breast

After a few experiments I decided that neither method was good for a frozen chicken breast. My solution was very simple. Get a large glass bowel and put the wrapped chicken breast into it. If the frozen chicken breast is not water tight wrapped put it into a sealed waterproof ziplock bag. Now fill the bowel with cold water. No cheating by using hot or even warm water it must be cold.  Let the cold tap run for a minute or two.  Now turn off the water and leave it for about 15 minutes – then pour away the water and repeat. For a typical 140g-180g chicken breast it should take less than an hour. You know it’s defrosted when you can gently bend the chicken breast at any point without resistance. (The principle works with most other types of frozen meat too). 

This method may delay your dinner by an hour but that better’s than 24 hours or a potentially negative reaction in the stomach area.

Chopped veg

How long do vegetables last?

How long do vegetables last?

When you are just cooking for one this becomes an important question. You certainly don’t want to eat the same vegetable every day just to avoid having to throw any away. Even if you start off liking something you’ll hate it after a week. Of course one answer is to buy smaller quantities of loose vegetables but they don’t comes with any “use buy” date. Even when you buy packed vegetables their dates tend to err on the side of caution.

How to throw away less vegetables

As a novice cook I wanted some more specific guidance on how long different vegetables typically lasted. After researching quite a few different sources I created a set of the most common “up to” times recommended for my frequently used vegetables and fruit.  What I do now is to put a yellow Post-it note on the front of the vegetable drawer and write on the date bought for any vegetable or fruit when I put in the fridge. This way I’m reminded about it every time I open the fridge.  It may not look pretty but I throw away much less vegetables now.

Recommended “up to” dates

Apples
Fridge: 3 weeks

Asparagus
Fridge: 3 days

Bananas
Work top: 5 days (keep away from any other fruit)

Bell peppers
Fridge: 5 days (red, yellow, and orange). One week for Green.

Broccoli
Fridge: 1 week

Carrots
Fridge: 2 weeks

Celery
Fridge: 2 weeks

Ginger
Fridge: 3 weeks

Herbs, leafy or soft such as Basil, Coriander and Tarragon
Fridge: 3 days  (I always have jars of theses too.)

Herbs, woody or hard such as Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme
Fridge: 2 weeks

Leeks
Fridge: 1 week

Lemons
Fridge: 3 weeks

Mushrooms
Fridge: 1 week (in a paper bag)

Onions
Pantry: 2 months, Fridge top shelf: 2 weeks
Fridge: 4 days (cut)

Oranges
Worktop: 3 days
Fridge: 2 weeks

Parsnips
Fridge: 1 month

Potatoes
Pantry: 3 weeks, Fridge two weeks (wrapped in brown bags)

Tomatoes
Worktop: 3 days

The overriding rule of course is that if things don’t look right or smell right throw them out. You are allowed to throw away unused vegetables too if you are really bored them but don’t admit to it.

My spice jars

What herbs and spices are used in your kitchen?

I thought you might ask. Here’s a picture of the herbs and spices in my kitchen.

My spice jars

Basil, Cajun spice mix, Chicken seasoning, Chilli, Chinese 5 spice, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Herbs de Provence, Italian herbs, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pilau seasoning, Rosemary, Sage, Steak seasoning, Star Anise, Tarragon and Thyme.   The most frequently used are in bold.

(If you want to know more about my most frequently used herbs and what foods they go with visit the herbs and spices page on the website.) 

Do you really store your jars like the picture?

The answer is yes – this is a picture of how I actually store them. I tried inherited wheels and racks but they always hid some jars which I ended up not using. Now there is no hiding place in my cupboard and I can see at a glance everything that I have. This leads to much more “I wonder what would happen if …?” experimenting – some of which is actually successful.

With some help from my friends (rather a lot actually) I created the Herbs matched to food guide. It’s a simple one page PDF that you can print and keep by the herbs and spices.

Erm.. I don’t understand any of this

If you don’t know what a herb or spice is and don’t have a clue what to do with them get started by visiting the herbs and spices page on the website.

Fresh vegetables

Should vegetables be kept in the fridge?

It seems like such a simple question but Google “Should vegetables be kept in the fridge?”and you get 716,000 results. It’s obviously not quite as simple as it appears. Instead of ploughing through 716,000 results I thought that it would be quicker to find out what fridge manufacturers actually called the bottom tray in their fridges. On my not very scientific survey 20% were Salad drawers, 24% Vegetable drawers and Others came in at 5%. The number one result at 51% was a Crisper drawer.  Clever fridge manufacturers keeping out of the debate.

So what is the simple answer? Should vegetables be kept in the fridge?

The answer is yes but with a few exceptions. Apparently potatoes and onions don’t like being with each other and it’s even worse if they are in a fridge together. They both end up getting hurt. Lots of Google results recommend storing potatoes in paper bags in a pantry. Onion are also apparently best stored in the pantry but with space for air to circulate. Ok, hands up who has a pantry? I thought not.

The my inherited kitchen compromise is to keep the onions on the top shelf of the fridge where it is less cold and they are protected by the rarely used products abandoned there. The potatoes are taken out of their plastic bag and put into paper bags in the “Crisper” drawer.  I think that it works but if you have a better idea please add a comment below.

Wok cooking

It’s only wok and oil – but I like it

If you’ve had a look at some of the recipes on the My Inherited Kitchen website you may have spotted that quite a few of them use a wok. I am definitely a big fan and I’ve discovered lots of other wok fans in the My Inherited Kitchen community too. They tend fall into two specific categories. Those that have their wok for a long time and those that have a non stick wok.  This was obviously something that I had to find out more about.

Why don’t non stick woks last as long?

The simple answer is that a wok was not designed to be non stick in the first place – but of course you knew that. The problem is that some of the creators of recipes don’t seem to be aware that non stick woks need to treated differently. I’m sure that you have seen cooking instructions that say “heat your dry wok on high” or “make sure the wok is very hot”.

Now this may come as a shock but some manufacturers of non stick woks have a different set of instructions which are sometimes within the terms and conditions of their guarantee. They use phrases such as “never put a wok on the hob without a liquid in it” and “avoid getting the wok too hot”.  For us newbie cooks this can be somewhat confusing.  The choice is don’t buy a non stick wok or just be really careful. I love my non stick wok so I’ve decided to be really careful. Here’s how.

Wok rules

  1. Never put the wok on the hob without a liquid in it.
  2. Use regular olive oil because it takes the heat better than virgin olive oil or better still use groundnut oil.
  3. Raise the heat gradually in steps starting at heat 4
  4. Never use on 9 (the highest setting on my hob)
  5. After cooking always put the wok on an unused cold hob ring or trivit
  6. Never put it in the sink or in water when it is still hot
  7. When it’s cold let it soak in warm water before cleaning it
  8. Never put it in the dish washer
  9. Always clean it with a soft sponge
  10. Tell it how much you appreciate all the nice meals it cooks for you

It’s too early to tell if I’m wasting my time or not but I’ll let you know how well my non stick wok survives.

Measuring spoons

How big is a tablespoon?

When I first inherited my kitchen duties I thought that a tablespoon was the type of spoon you use to eat while sitting at a table. After a few weeks I discovered that it wasn’t. For some strange reason it’s a spoon that you use to serve at a table. I thought that would be called a serving spoon not a tablespoon, oh well. I’ve also learnt that what I thought was a tablespoon is in fact dessertspoon. Armed with this new information would obviously help me make better meals because I’d be using the right quantities.

Hunt the tablespoon

The next task was to look around my inherited kitchen to see if I could find a serving spoon, sorry tablespoon. I was so pleased when I found two serving/tablespoons. The problem is that they were both different sizes and held different amounts of liquid.  How could this be?

The only explanation I could think of was a plot to make everyone use metric measurements instead of vague old fashioned terms based on spoons that are used for other purposes.  I don’t know who the plotters were (perhaps measuring spoon manufacturers?)  but they succeeded with me. I went out and bought some measuring spoons which can’t be used for anything else other than measuring.

Measuring spoons

If I was doing an Amazon review of them I’d have to say that because they are bowl shaped they are actually easier to use than spoons designed for another purpose. As a result it’s easier to see how much liquid is in the spoon and I definitely spill less messy oil.

Conversion tables

To help you not just with the spoons issue but with other volume, weights, measurements and temperature conversions have a look at the My Inherited Kitchen conversion-tables.

 

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