How cooking has grown on me
Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker from Flickr via CC BY 2.0 licensing

I must say that now I’m a fully capable and confident cook. But it hadn’t been that way about 6 years ago.

I’m the type of kid who lived off on my family and my mother’s kitchen. I grabbed what I could and was not choosy, I must add. I took food for granted; maybe because it was always provided. I didn’t feel any need to learn to cook; I was never prompted.

Besides, I had a lot of preoccupations while growing up – and they were mainly not located around the home, much less the kitchen.

Then it was a totally different thing when I went to the university and then got a girlfriend a few years later.

I had to learn about working around the kitchen like most male students, or suffer cafeteria food every single meal. That was the point when I was haunted by my mother’s kitchen’s smells of fresh and warm bread and herbed roasts. The aroma of brewed coffee alternately wafted in the air with whatever was inside the oven. I was often transported home with those olfactory imaginings while staring at my flat’s cold and bare kitchen.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I needed to get my hands on real food. And that meant food of “home.” I searched the internet for the food I’ve grown up with, planned my first menu, and drew my itinerary. It turned out I’d need not only ingredients but also some basic cooking equipment. And I wasn’t necessarily fully-funded.

I decided that I needed to trim down my to-buy list. I looked at some of the top rated nonstick cookware sets but realized they were outside my budget. I eventually bought a single stainless steel sauté pan, around 10 inches in diameter.

It could fry, sauté, and grill. And hear this, I cooked my pasta and made soup and sauces in there, too; though of course, they weren’t that successful. What with constantly taking care they didn’t boil and bubble over the rim. I used it as a saucepan only twice before I decided that I had to invest in a decent saucepan or pot if I was going to be serious in the cooking thing.

And serious I was. In fact, it has become a way of life for me – an enjoyable way of life, I must say. I loved going to the wet section of the supermarket, something that I detested before. In short, my university life started my love affair with cooking out of necessity. Sure beats microwaving meals out of a small dorm fridge or cooler.

I was barely making passable egg-potato salads, until I started dishing out proudly thin- crusted pizzas with mouth-watering mozzarellas.

With Rachel Ray, the Barefoot Contessa, and all the cooking shows year-round, I’ve been having more fun than I ever imagined.

Then I found myself a full-time job and much later, a family. I’ve become more creative and resourceful. Eating by myself, I was already those; but with a partner and soon a kid, I blossomed as a cook! I’ve become my mother! Spinning and whipping dish after dish after dish. I did buy more pots and pans and found a lot of good information about kitchen gear like good coolers here.

I got excited about holidays, and always had a full menu prepared a month earlier. Yes, it was an occasion to showcase what I had in my arsenal; but it was mainly because I wanted to cook for the love of it. My family and friends’ appreciative noises while relishing the food I prepare are usually enough to make me want to think up about the next feast.

On an ordinary day, I love cooking still. Apart from keeping the family nourished and loving the whole process from picking up fresh herbs from the garden (yes, cooking branched out to mini-gardening, too!), I also have an unwritten privilege. I get to yell, “C’mon, I’m cooking here, get the baby outta’ here!”

And it’s not only the freedom to do that; I get quick response, too! The baby’s out in a jiffy, not even a second callout is ever needed. It’s different, of course, when you’re doing a report in your laptop and the baby is pulling all the cords. You can yell the same way, but you’d get scowled at, too.

Isn’t cooking a privileged chore slash hobby?

Paella Pans
Eli Christman from flickr, CC BY 2.0

Photo courtesy of Eli Christman from flickr via CC BY 2.0 licensing.

Whether you’re an avid chef, a culinary explorer, or just an adventurous home cook, anyone who spends time in the kitchen knows that the right tool for the job can spell the difference between Mmmmm and meh.

Giving you the proper conduction, heat distribution, and proper construction to create a beautiful paella, these pans are a fantastic addition to any kitchen; even for the chef that “has everything”. While features and aesthetics vary, each of these pans offers professional quality construction and the finest materials to ensure that you serve up the very best for years and years to come.

Mauviel M’Heritage Copper

This 14-inch wide bottom pan features a 2mm thick copper construction. Copper is prized for its ability to evenly and consistently distribute heat across the cooking surface. Lined with high grade stainless steel for easy cleanup, it also won’t react with your food. This pan truly is one of the best-of-the-best.

While your paella will be the star attraction, this pan serves to dress up any kitchen with its copper construction and beautiful bronze handles. Should anything happen to this well built, heavy-duty pan, you can rest easy knowing it comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Of course, with a price tag hovering around $300 this pan may not be for everyone, but rest assured that this is a purchase that will be handed down through generations of chefs.

Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 12″

Coming in at the other end of the spectrum is this workhorse of a pan. The Calphon tri-ply is as heavy as heavy-duty gets. This pan is as suited to defending the homestead as it is to Le Cordon Bleu. Unlike some other high-quality cookware, at under $70 this one leaves enough in the grocery budget to buy some dinner food as well.

This pan features a 12-inch base, plenty of room to serve paella for four. It boasts a three-ply construction which ensures even heating every time. Additionally, its heavy-duty build ensures a lifetime of hard use without any concern for the integrity of your pan.
The handles will stay cool on the stovetop, but because this pan has all-steel construction, it is equally well suited for the oven or broiler. Additionally, unlike some “fancy” pans, this one is dishwasher safe. That means no greasy mess soaking on the countertop overnight.
Perhaps this isn’t the most elegant option, but for price, quality, and versatility, it’s hard to beat.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 17-inch

This may as well be your great-great grandmother’s pan. Seriously, this is a real-deal cast iron pan big enough to wash the baby in (if need be).

At an enormous 17-inches at base, this pan will serve you well for paella, or if you ever need to braise a few chickens at once. It’s simple, time-tested design features dual cast-in handles, so they won’t pull away even after decades of use and storage.
Anyone who has worked with cast iron in the past knows that maintenance is a must to ensure usefulness, but this pan comes pre-seasoned. That means a quick wash with hot water and you’re ready for action. Additionally, anyone who has cooked in cast iron knows that there is something special that happens when your food bubbles and steams away on the slab of iron. Teflon is a great invention, but I’ll trade a bit of elbow grease to enjoy the benefits of good iron pan any day. At just over $70.00 it will pay for itself as you watch the delicate pans fill the recycle bin while stirring away in your enormous family friendly cast iron pan.


Of course, you don’t “need” a special pan for paella or anything else, but a job worth doing is a job worth doing right. Each of the pans reviewed has its pluses and minuses of course. The Mauviel is an absolute masterpiece. As decorative as it is functional it may be rivaled, but surely is unsurpassed. It is an investment, albeit a hefty one.

With the Calphalon, you get a no-worries pan that should serve you well in myriad ways. Braise, bake, roast, broil, sauté…this pan will be a go-to addition to your kitchen; heck, it can even crack walnuts! It’s also nice to know you won’t break the bank with this sound purchase.

Call me a romantic, but nothing says home like a cast-iron skillet on the stove filling the home with the promise, and aromas, of a family meal almost ready. While there is a trade-off in that it requires some TLC to keep it in working order, think of the money you can save on a gym membership while you tote this hefty piece of equipment around the kitchen.
When it comes to cooking, it’s all just a matter of taste. In the end, any of these pans will get the job done, it’s just a matter of what you’re looking for.

Meat Slicers – What Those Fingers!
Rebecca Siegel from flickr, CC BY 2.0

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Siegel from flickr via CC BY 2.0 licensing

Meat slicers are more commonly found in restaurants than in the home- but they can be wonderful to have in your home. There are many choices, whether you’re looking for a commercial meat slicer or one designed for home use, you’re sure to find something that will fit your needs and desires. Of course, when you’re making your decision, you’ll need to consider how much meat you’re planning on slicing.

On the other hand, slicing meat is not the only use for meat slicers. You can also use them to slice veggies or even cheeses. Plus, if you have a meat slicer at home, you can purchase your deli meat in bulk and slice it as you need it. When you’re considering purchasing a meat slicer, you should think about your slicing choices, the size of the blades, the horsepower of the machine, and the safety features it comes equipped with.

823E from Berkel

The 823E from Berkel meat slicer is an excellent choice for restaurants, especially if you’re planning to slice meat numerous times every day. Additionally, this unit has many safety features, which makes it excellent for a restaurant that has many employees buzzing about.

Additionally, it is only about 15 ¼ inches wide x 18 ¾ inches deep x 13 ½ inches high, so it won’t take up much of your counter space. This meat slicer is a professional one and has the ability to slice veggies and cheeses- not just meats. The blade is 9 inches long and can slice through veggies and cheeses up to 7 1/8 inches wide and 9/16 inches thick. Finally, the 823E from Berkel also has a built in blade sharpener on top and a flexible 6 foot cord, so you can locate it farther from the electrical outlet if you need to. There is only one speed on the 823E from Berkel. You can find it on Amazon for only $665 with free shipping.

The 609C from Chef’s Choice

The 609C from Chef’s Choice meat slicer is the perfect meat slicer for the home and will even work well for smaller restaurants that don’t do much food slicing throughout the day. This model comes with a few safety features, as well as a one-year warranty from the manufacturer. This meat slicer also slices more than just meat- it will slice through veggies, cheeses, and even breads. The tilted food carriage allows you to slice your meat precisely and efficiently.

The meat slicer from Chef’s Choice only has a 7 inch blade, which is actually a bit small for these types of machines, but really does work well for home use and for smaller restaurants. This slicer will slice meats in a variety of thicknesses, from deli thin to ¾ inches thick. The blade is made from stainless steel, which means that it’s will resist rust over time.

You can take the unit apart, removing the blade, the food carriage, food pusher, and food deflector to make cleaning your machine much easier. You can get this meat slicer from Amazon for only $89.99 and free shipping.

Hobart Edge-12

The Hobart Edge-12 is another of the professional-grade meat slicers. This slicer can handle the constant slicing that restaurants require. Plus, it has many safety features so you can leave it on a countertop in your restaurant, even if you have lots of employees in and out of the kitchen. Plus, it is easy to disassemble, which makes cleaning easy. The base of the unit is a single piece, which means that juices won’t seep into cracks and crevices and cause bacteria or mold to grow where you can’t clean.

The Hobart Edge-12 is made to handle large pieces of meat and can slice meats up to 9/16 inches thick. The carriage will hold food up to 10 inches wide and 7 ½ inches tall. You can run this machine for up to six hours per day. Due to the fact that it was built for a professional setting, it has a Poly-V belt drive system, giving it quiet operation so that you don’t have to worry about your restaurant patrons being disturbed. The knife on this unit is 12 inches long and is chrome-plated carbon steel which will resist rust and damage over the years. You can find on Amazon for $1599.00.


If you are planning to purchase a meat slicer for your restaurant or other commercial use, and multiple people will be using it, you should likely go with the first one due to the fact that it takes up less space and has a wide range of uses. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that’s better for home use, consider the Chef’s Choice. It is easy to use and has a variety of uses. However, if you have a very busy restaurant, it’s best to go with the third one due to the fact that it is a more professional unit and is easy to tear down for cleaning (and put back together).

Benefits of Cooking With a Pressure Cooker

What do French Onion soup, pasta casserole, and pulled pork have in common? Besides being delicious, they can all be cooked to perfection using a pressure cooker. Pressure-cooking as been around for a while, and traditional pressure cookers made quite a screeching noise as a warning that dinner was about to explode onto the walls and ceiling of the kitchen. Pressure cookers have come a long way since then, and the days of screeching explosions are long gone. Today, pressure cookers have safety features that prevent a messy explosion.

Because of the messy and noisy memories many people have with pressure cookers, many cooks are less than excited to try to dishes in the pressure cooker. However, modern day versions offer a wide range of benefits in the kitchen.

Food Preparation Time

After a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is mix, blend, stir and watch over a meal to ensure it doesn’t burn or make a mess. One of the major advantages of a pressure cooker is the ability to quickly throw all of your ingredients into a pot, close the lid, and move on to something else — i.e., open a bottle of wine or open a cold one from the beer refrigerator — while dinner cooks itself.

Kitchen Environment

While making dinner for the family, do you find that you are fanning yourself with an oven mitt or wiping the sweat off of your forehead? Cooking on a traditional stovetop sends heat into the kitchen and can heat up the cooking area pretty quickly. Even though most of the heat moves upwards into the stovetop fan, some escapes into the kitchen and makes for a humid working environment. With a pressure cooker, all of the heat is concentrated to one place, and the only time it escapes is in that perfect moment when you release the latches, lift the lid, and the kitchen is suddenly filled with the warm, mouth-watering smells of dinner ready to be served.

Energy Efficient

Boiling, steaming, and stirring in multiple pots and pans on a stovetop all at once requires a great amount of energy, and in turn, contributes to a higher electricity bill. A pressure cooker cooks food using just one pot, and significantly reduces the energy required to make dinner. Who knew pressure cookers could not only make cooking dinner easier, but also save you money?!

Easy Clean Up

Walk away from a bubbling sauce for just one second, and come back to a mess all over the stovetop and down the side of the pan. Pair that with the mess that multiple stirring spoons leave behind on the counter and you’ve got quite a job ahead of you when it’s time to clean the kitchen. The lid on pressure cookers keeps food right where it supposed to be and won’t splash or bubble over, creating a mess — unless there’s an issue like this. The benefit of cooking everything in one pot is that when it’s time to clean up, you don’t have a sink full of dishes to tackle.

Healthy Meals

Health conscious families may spend time, effort, and money buying quality meats and vegetable to prepare healthy meals for their family, but all of this effort is wasted if you lose the nutritional value of the food by cooking it the wrong way. The longer food cooks and the more liquid you use to keep it from sticking to the pan, the more nutrients escape from the food itself. A pressure cooker allows you to cook your food thoroughly in a short amount of time and doesn’t require a lot of water.

Faster Meals

Sometimes a pressure cooker can be confused with a slow cooker, which is also known as a crock-pot. A crock-pot is famous for taking raw meat and vegetables in the morning and turning it into a flavorful stew by dinnertime. This is great when you have the time for a slow-cooked dinner. Pressure cookers, however, are 70% faster than cooking on a stovetop. Throw raw chicken and some veggies into the pressure cooker, and thirty minutes later, you have a roasted chicken meal that will have everyone asking for seconds. Some nights, quick and easy dinners are vital, and a pressure cooker helps without sacrificing taste or nutrition.

If you’ve been shying away from using a pressure cooker, consider the countless options this versatile, durable, and easy-to-clean cooking appliance can offer your family for delicious and healthy meals in no time!