Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kitchen Staple #3: Potatoes

So, I decided that I wanted to make homemade potato chips.  I sliced potatoes and deep fried them and they actually came out really delicious. I was so impressed with myself.  My family was too as they gobbled up those potato chips.  I made so many that I decided that I would put them in plastic storage bags so the kids could eat them the next day.

Bad idea.

They next day they were all soggy and nasty.

But don’t get me wrong; though I have made some mistakes with cooking potatoes, I absolutely love them.   They are so delicious. You can use them to make anything tastier.  I noticed that potatoes are the first things that my kids eat when they begin to start eating table food.

I love them because you can do anything with them. You can mash them, fry them, bake them, sauté them.  Anyway you cook them they can be a fabulous meal.  In my family for some reason it is a meal of comfort

I try to always have a bag of potatoes in my kitchen in case I need a side dish or forget to buy a bag of French fries at the store.  I keep them around just in case I decided to make a breakfast scramble on a whim. 

Facts about Potatoes

v  A potato is about 80% water and 20% solid.

v  United States potato lovers consumed more than 4 million tons of French Fries in various shapes and sizes.

v  The average American eats 140 pounds of potatoes per year. Germans eat more than 200 pounds per year.

v  The highest volume baked potato restaurant, The Hot Potato, is located in Plaza las Americas in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

v  One of the most fun items on our list of potato facts is that the potato was the first food ever to be grown in outer space.

v  Potatoes are one of the most important crops in the entire world. They fall at number four on the list of important crops, with only corn, wheat, and rice beating them out for importance.

v  After dairy products, potatoes are the second most consumed food in all of the United States.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kitchen Staple #2: Onions

My mother used to tell me that when I was little I would sneak into the kitchen and take little bites out of the onions in the refrigerator. 

I guess it’s easy to say that I love onions.  I have always loved them. I like them every way I can possible have them.  I can eat them grilled, baked, fried, sautéed etc.  I see them as my number two staples that should be kept in the house at all times.

I love to cook with them; I love them raw on burgers and on tacos. I make sure I have plenty of them on my pizza and on sub sandwiches. I order extra onions when I am eating fast food and I love the way my house smells when I cook with them.

The problem” My family hates them.

My husband cannot stand them.  Whenever we get burgers he picks them off.  It’s fine with me.  I just add them to my burger. 

My daughter is so picky about them.  She hates them.

It is a contentious subject in my house. I have reverted to grating them just so I can sneak in the flavor. And you know what, that is not enough for them. It drives me crazy.  

My husband and my daughters think they are disgusting.  The problem is that I see them as staples in my kitchen.  I rarely cook anything that does not include onions in some way shape or form. 

Then there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Sun shining on me and my onion dilemma. I looked up one day and caught my 10 month old daughter in the refrigerator. I look over at her and I realized she snuck an onion from the crisper.  She was munching on it and I could not do anything but smile. Like mother, like daughter. I finally have an ally!

What do you know about onions?

Yellow Onions

Yellow Onions are full-flavored and are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown when cooked and give French Onion Soup its tangy sweet flavor.

           Red Onions

Red Onions, with their wonderful color, are a good choice for lots of fresh uses or for grilling, charbroiling, and roasting.

White Onions

White Onions are often used in prepared salads, white sauces, and is the traditional onion for classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed.

Onion Color, Flavor, Usage Guide

This chart was created to serve as a guide for helping you choose what kind of onion to use in a recipe. Feel free to let your own tastes, preferences, and creativity along with this chart guide you to your own decision. The most important thing to remember is "bring on the onions" and enjoy!

Note: Crop size in the chart below is approximate. Remember, flavor and usage info are general guidelines for each color and type.

Variety or Type
Raw Flavor/Texture
Best Usage
Yellow Onion:
All-purpose and most popular, approximately 87% of the U.S. onion crop is comprised of yellow varieties. The most well-known sweet onions are yellow. The best type of onion for caramelizing is a yellow storage variety. Cooking brings out this variety's nutty, mellow, often sweet, quality when caramelized.
crisp, juicy, mild flavor with a slightly sweet ending with little to no after-taste
raw, lightly cooked, sautéed, or grilled
Fresh, Mild
March - August
crisp, juicy, mild to slightly pungent with a faint after-taste
raw, lightly cooked, sautéed, or grilled
strong onion flavor, mild after-taste
grilled, sautéed, caramelized, baked, or roasted
Red Onion:
About 8% of the U.S. onion crop is red. They have gained popularity in the past decade, especially in foodservice on salads and sandwiches because of their color.
crisp, very mild onion flavor
raw, grilled, or roasted
Fresh, Mild
bright tones, slightly less water content than yellow with a slightly pungent ending
raw, grilled, or roasted
sharp, spicy, and moderate to very pungent
raw, grilled, or roasted
White Onion:
Approximately 5% of U.S. onion production is dedicated to white onions. They are commonly used in white sauces, potato and pasta salads, and in Mexican or Southwest cuisine. Due to the compact nature of their cell structure, white onions do not store quite as long as other varieties.
Fresh, Mild
moderately pungent and clean finish, very little after-taste
raw, grilled, sautéed, or lightly cooked
modertaley pungent to very pungent and full flavored, but finishes with a cleaner and crisper flavor in comparison to yellow and red storage varieties.
raw, grilled, sautéed, or lightly cooked
Preparation Tips:
1. Cut onions as close to cooking or serving time as possible. An onion’s flavor deteriorates and its aroma intensifies over time.
2. High heat makes onions bitter. When sauteeing onions, always use low or medium heat.
3. Chopped or sliced onions can be refrigerated for up to 7 days in sealed containers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kitchen Staple #1: Pasta

Imagine a Sunday night having dinner with the family. In front of you is a big delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs with the perfect sauce.

That sounds like heaven to me!

I guess that’s because I love Italian food and anything to do with pasta.

Pasta is always a go-to or a dinner staple in my house. We could have it in many different ways any day of the week and we never get sick of it.

I am a sucker for Italian food.  I almost believe that I was Italian in another life. My favorite Italian foods all involve pasta in some way shape or form.

 I just can’t get enough of pasta and the many dishes that you can create from them. 

I believe I got that pasta loving gene from my mother.  My mother made the best spaghetti sauce for an African American woman from Michigan.  Her sauce would always make you speechless and it spoiled her sons as they could not tolerate a woman that could not make similar sauce from scratch.

In her house, she always had tomato sauce, many types of pasta. It was a staple in our house growing up.  I can just taste her spaghetti and sauce

My mother did not like meatballs in her pasta.  I never knew why but she would always make us a pot of spaghetti and meatballs and always eat her without. 

Just thinking about her and her big pot of spaghetti that could feed an army brings me back to our little yellow house on the 25th block of east 21st street. It brings me back home and when I can’t be there I try to bring that taste of home to my family.

The problem: It took me forever to get the sauce right.  

My favorite types of Pasta: Spaghetti and Penne Rigate