What is a Colander? How do you choose one?

Colanders are those strainers you use to drain larger amounts of liquid from things.

Colanders stand alone, you do not need to hold them like you do a strainer.

Here are some different types: There are some funky ones, like cow and chicken colanders;

Colander

Colander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colorful ones

Stylish ones

They can be made from heavy-duty plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, aluminum, copper etc.

I bought one from an artist friend once. This colander was ceramic, hand painted and unique. It had three chicken legs styled out of clay; the bottom half of the bird was all there was, it was white and the handles were the birds wings. Chickens don’t have very big wings. I couldn’t resist the cow colander either.

I like funky kitchen stuff sometimes. If it makes me smile, it gets a place in common use. This colander made me laugh so I bought it. It earned an esteemed spot on the kitchen counter for a while.

Chicken and cow colanders

Finally time to use it. I place it carefully in the bottom of the sink and drained the pasta in the colander.

I was totally beside myself and wondered why it didn’t dawn on me before that exact moment how I expected it to look.

Well, what happened was not what I thought it would be.

The chicken looked as if it were peeing all over itself; peeing like a racehorse.

That’s just not right. That imagery was all wrong.

My fun time with the chicken colander was over.

I drained the pasta, washed and dried the colander.

It holds a place in the background of my TV show set.

Now, they hold butchers twine

It is no longer used actively. Last I checked, it held several balls of butchers twine. The holes in the body (the perforations for the colander) are perfect twine guides. Thread it through a hole, pull as you need. Only on the TV show though.

I can’t have peeing animals in my kitchen.

When it comes to kitchen tools, you get what you pay for.

If you buy artisan, you can also get a show.

Stainless Steel Colanders

Over the sink colander; the handles extend to fit your sink

Here are a few pointers for evaluating a colander for purchase:

  • English: A plastic colander in a stainless kit...

    English: A plastic colander in a stainless kitchen sink. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Take a look at all the different materials. Which do you prefer? Is the chosen material durable for my lifestyle? (Enamel chips)

  • Make sure there are lots of small holes. Small enough to retain peas. Any larger and you limit the colanders use.
  • Colander

    Colander (Photo credit: paukrus)

    Make sure the sides and bottom have holes, not just the bottom.

  • Make sure it has enough holes, a few will not strain your stuff fast or well enough
  • Will it fit in your sink? If not, where are you doing to use it?
  • Will it fit into the dishwasher?

You can store the colander with the nested stainless mixing bowls.

If you tire of your colander, you can always line it with sheet moss, fill it with dirt and plant herbs or flowers in it. Of course you will need a tray under it to catch any drips from watering.

No matter what, do not allow your friends to convince you a colander makes a good party hat. It does not and you will regret any resulting photos.

Colander

Colander (Photo credit: StefZ)

  • English: A colander, photographed by DO'Neil.

    English: A colander, photographed by DO’Neil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How to cook – Outfitting Your Kitchen

Dear Tyler,

SO! You are moving into your first apartment. What an exciting time of your life.

Let’s talk about how to outfit your kitchen so you don’t have to eat out all the time or depend on the university’s dining plan any more.

First you will need some decent pots and pans. There is no need to go buy a full set unless you are planning on doing a lot of cooking. It is best to buy pots and pans as your cooking skills grow.

Always buy the best you can afford. Fortunately for you, I have so many pots and pans to give you but only once. The quality of these should last you a lifetime.

All-Clad and Calphalon are great brands with quality products

A basic set of good quality pots and pans.
These are made by All-Clad – The best in my opinion.

There are a lot of cheap knock offs out there.

As a general rule, NEVER buy a pot or pan with a celebrity name on it like Emeril or Rachael Ray or Paula Dean. The stuff is cheap and not the best quality. It is all about looks not performance.

If you can’t afford All Clad or Calphalon, take a good hard look at them in the store. Pick them up and feel the quality, the balance, notice the construction: how is the handle attached to the body of the pot?

Then, when you shop for other lower priced pots, you will know what top quality feels like and therefore can choose quality when you find it in other pots and pans.

SHOPPING HINT:

You can find All Clad and Calphalon sometimes at Marshall’s, TJ Max, Homegoods, Tuesday Morning all at lower than normal retail prices. They don’t always have them but when they do, they are great values.

If you can’t find them at those stores, larger kitchen stores that carry these brands often have semi-annual sales with free gifts with purchase that are really worth while. No need to ever pay full retail price for them. Take your time and look around.

Yes, this means you need to pack them and move them as you relocate. Now you are accumulating the “stuff” you need to outfit your living space.

More than likely, you will always have a kitchen to cook in from now on.

This is what I recommend you start with:

  • 1- 7 or 8″ non-stick saute pan (frying pan for eggs)
  • 1- 10″ saute pan with lid
  • 1- 2 quart pot with lid
  • 1-5 quart pot to boil water for pasta, making soup etc.
  • A series of graduated stainless bowls – at least 5 in the set
  • A colander or strainer of some kind for straining pasta, vegetables etc.
    • You can have fun with these styles, there are some funky colanders in great colors.
  • A cutting board, get one you like; acrylic or wood, your choice
  • 2 heavy-duty sheet pans – commercial 1/2  and 1/4 sheet pans are best; they last and don’t warp.

Small wares: those things you use and keep in the drawer

  • Microplane–  a hand grater in various shredding sizes.

    Various Microplane shredders

  • Peeler
  • Manual can opener – be sure to wash it when you use it
  • Bowl scrapers are handy for scooping things out of bowls or off your cutting board
  • Large metal kitchen spoons: one slotted(rectangular openings), one perforated (round openings) and one solid – these really come in handy
  • Heat resistant spatulas and bowl scrapers

    Heat resistant spatulas – lots of uses – only buy heat-resistant ones. It says so on the label. Why? Because they melt if you use them on the stove and they are not heat-resistant. Who wants plastic in their food?

  • Various wooden spoons – use on non stick pans – they are usually inexpensive and quite handy. Just don’t catch them on fire
  • Professional grade stainless steel tongs – they become like your other hands. Great for moving things in the pan without piercing ( meat). Buy sturdy ones.
  • Wire whisk – the thinner the wires, and the more of them, the more whisking/whipping action you get. Thicker/fewer wires are for dense food items, thinner ones for whipping cream, egg whites or making hollandaise
  • A decent corkscrew – you never know when you will need one
  • Set of measuring cups – look for ones that have both standard and Imperial measures so you only need one set
  • Measuring spoons – You will need them
  • Off-set metal spatula – for taking cookies off the baking sheet and flipping food in the pan
  • Several kitchen towels, sponges and washing-up cloths. You will use these for removing hot things from the oven and for wiping up messes and drying your hands.
  • Three knives:
    • 1 8-10 inch Chef knife or santoku (Which ever you prefer)
    • 1 paring knife
    • 1 boning knife
    • Made from High Carbon Stainless Steel- all about knives may come later.
      • Safety Tip!
        When removing things from the oven, make sure your towel is completely dry or else you will end up with a nasty steam burn.

With all of this, you should be ready to start cooking.

When you get these things, wash them and give them a home somewhere in your kitchen.

These are not the typical cheap things you find in most college apartments.

Take good care of your equipment and it will last you a lifetime. I have sent you top-quality pots and pans.  Wash them up after each use. Don’t let your roommate burn them up! 😉

Good pots and pans wash up neat. Use Brillo or SOS pads to remove any baked on grease or stains as they happen. Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami are both scrubbing powders that so not scratch so get some to help keep your pans looking brand new. DO NOT use Comet or Ajax, it will scratch too much.

As a general rule, do not put the pots and pans in the dishwasher. Hand wash. Get used to it.

NEVER put your knives in the dishwasher. The heat can make them brittle and break easier.

As I said earlier, I am giving you a great set of pots and pans, just once! You should be able to give your set to your child when they get their first apartment.

Yes, they will last that long and still be like new if you care for them.

They will cost you a small fortune to replace so make sure you take care of them and take them with you when you move.

Next we will start talking about some basic cooking skills you can easily master that will take you a long way.

Let me know what you want to learn to cook. Tonkatsu?

You already know our family favorite: Sardine and Anchovy Pasta.

You are on your own for dishes. Get something you like and fits your budget.

Love always,

Mom

Favorite Things From My Kitchen

Mandy over at The Complete Cook Book in South Africa has a wonderful idea of sharing some items in her kitchen each month. From what I understand, Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial started this idea so head over to their blogs as see what they are sharing this month too.

An “In My Kitchen” post is supposed to be posted on the first of the month, at least within a few days of it.

Here are a few of my favorite things in my kitchen this month.

In my kitchen: is a tall vase full of beautiful sunflowers a friend brought as a thank-you for dinner.

Sunflowers from a friend as a thank-you for dinner.

Mac Tonight” always makes me grin, especially when he sings.
(He has had a hard time finding other work after this, hope the royalties are good! See below for his resume.)

There was an art show this weekend that had some very nice art work. Since our old sugar bowl has a cracked lid, I saw this mans work and couldn’t resist buying this wonderful new sugar bowl. Although made of stoneware, it is thin and lightweight. He has details inside and out that make such nice finishing touches. Rogers other work of bowls, vases and receptacles are all very high quality and very well made. Check out his Etsy store here : RStrom Pottery

The new sugar bowl

Sugar bowl lid detail

Sugar bowl inside lid detail, notice the corner seams. Nicely done!

Outside detail of the sugar bowl.
I just love it!

Russian Spoons

A student of mine is from Russia. She brought me a gift one year of these delightful spoons. They are hand painted. The small spoon is for salt and the larger one is for sugar. And yes I do use them all the time.

Will you share some of your favorite things in your kitchen?

Just in case you don’t know who “Mac Tonight” is, here in a compilation of his work with McDonald’s. For some crazy reason, this guy makes me giggle, snap my fingers and sing. (Watch out!)

The second song is my favorite! They had to keep revising the lyrics due to copyright infringements with the original song.

This is all so odd because I don’t eat this kind of food, but adore these commercials.

So Mr. Mac gets an honored spot in my kitchen. He is responsible for spontaneous outbursts of song and snapping fingers.

This past week

During this past week I have had some time off to get some projects off of my need to do list.

This is what I have been up to:

  • Taxes are done! Until next year. Every year I say I’m going to keep track of records so there isn’t so much to do at the end of the year. Right.
  • Nurturing sourdough cultures into some wonderful bread
    • The cultures had sat in the back of the fridge for over a week, neglected. I was afraid they were dying but after some TLC, Voila! Lively sourdough cultures.
    • I used Amaranth flour and discovered a wonderful green corn silk flavor which turns nutty when toasted
    • I made enough bread for the neighborhood. I love working with the dough. Something about it that I can’t explain
  • Located a commercial kitchen for the production of the condiment line we have been working on for a couple of years.
    • It is amazing how hard these facilities are to find.
    • Now for the details of product liability insurance, leases, USDA labeling compliance etc.
    • Finalizing all of the marketing materials from labels, cards, point of sale materials etc.
    • Lining up spaces in farmers markets to begin marketing
      • Design table display
      • Develop standard product demonstrations
    • Releasing product samples to a sales rep for larger sales and markets
  • Created some great meals that should have been on Spoon Feast
    • Crispy chicken thighs with green Thai sauce over coconut rice
      • Thai green sauce is a recipe in development and simply knock your socks off delicious!
    • Black Bean Soup
    • Grilled Steaks with classic salad and baked potatoes
    • Chicken breasts with lemon rosemary
    • Salmon salad on toasted homemade bread
    • Oven “fried” cod fillets with Thai green sauce (see above) and jasmine rice
    • Deviled Eggs, a true Southern dish

I suppose I should have been blogging about these dishes but didn’t.

I just wanted to cook without documentation.

  • Listened to French moviesall day just to hear the language.
    • I was inspired by Becoming Madame to find more ways to immerse myself into the process of learning French.
  • Registered for a digital photography class Saturday afternoon
    • I am very excited about this one!

I’ll be back on the regular blogging schedule by tomorrow.

In the meantime, the orchid has started blooming, soil is warming, the coffee is hot, and it is going to be a glorious day.

Life is good.