The Kitchen Counter - Home Cooking Tips and Inspiration



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The show that's dedicated to helping aspiring home cooks grow their skills and confidence in the kitchen so they can start cooking up memories with their family and friends. Whether you want to learn to cook or just need some simple food inspiration, we will cover recipes, kitchen tools, and interviews with experts to help you on your home cooking journey! On Twitter at @TKCpodcast /Facebook at / Instagram at

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Last updated on May 28, 2020, 4:11 pm


Better Safe Than Sorry

October 05, 2014

Email: Leave me voice mail feedback at: 971-208-5493 Food Safety Basics A suggestion came in on our Facebook page from Jennifer to talk about leftovers and how to safely store them. That got me thinking about food safety in general, so I decided to devote this episode to talking about good food safety practices to practice in the home kitchen. One in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. That means that in some point in your life you've probably been sickened by food whether you realize it or not. I've been hospitalized because of foodborne bacteria I picked up in a restaurant, and let me tell you, it isn't fun! I'm going to break this down into three parts: Food prep, cooking, and storing leftovers. By the way, is an excellent website with tons of practical info for use in your kitchen including cooking temperature and storage charts. First of all, you should understand what foods are cause for concern when it comes to food safety: Safely Preparing Foods Poultry, meats, seafood, eggs, and raw milk dairy products cause the most concern when it comes to bacteria. The keys to properly handling your prep foods are: - Wash your hands often! - Keep your risky foods (meats, poultry, seafood, etc.) separated from your not so risky foods (vegetables, fruits, grains, etc), to avoid cross contamination. - I recommend having different cutting boards for different types of food so you can make sure you aren't dicing onions on the same board you just cut up raw chicken! Also be sure to properly clean all utensils between ingredients. - Don't thaw or marinate meat at room temperature. - When you are done prepping, clean up your area thoroughly before starting in on cooking. Cooking Your Food Properly This phase is mainly concerned with cooking your foods to a proper temperature to kill bacteria and therefore make the food safe to eat. You should get a hold of a good cooking time/temp chart (the one from is perfectly fine). The other key is to get yourself a good food thermometer. My favorites are the instant-read digital types, but here are three different ones to check out. Insta-Read Large Dial Cooking Thermometer Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer (great all-around thermometer) The Cadillac of food thermometers Also remember not to double-dip when you taste your food--You'll transfer nasty mouth bacteria to the food! Storing leftovers Bacteria grows most rapidly between the temps of 40F and 140F degrees. You should get leftovers in the fridge ASAP--it's generally not a good idea to let them cool at room temp for any period of time. Try to accelerate cooling by increasing the surface area of food before putting in fridge (put hot liquids in shallow bowls, and cut up meat into smaller pieces). This will also help ensure you won't heat up items that are already in the fridge. Also note that the back of your fridge will be the coolest, and therefore the best place to put leftovers. You should only reheat leftovers that you plan on eating. Don't reheat, then cool, reheat, then cool. Also, reheat to full temp (165F) to kill any bacteria that has accumulated. Only keep leftovers in your fridge for about 3-4 days before tossing. Remember, just because something smells or looks "ok" doesn't mean it doesn't have bacteria that can make you sick! When it doubt, throw it out! Food Safety Resources U.S. government website with tons of resources on food safety. Also lists food recall information Interesting article on reheating leftover meat USDA website for food safety and security Home food safety booklet download Connect with The Kitchen Counter Podcast! Leave me voice mail feedback at: 971-208-5493 Facebook: Twitter: @TKCpodcast Email: If you liked what you heard, please consider subscribing in iTunes. You can also help out the show by leaving a positive review in the iTunes store (you know you want to)!






December 06, 2014 • 24m

Leave me voice mail feedback at: 971-208-5493 Facebook: Twitter: @TKCpodcast Email: If you liked what you heard, please consider subscribing in iTunes. You can also help out the show by leaving a positive review in the iTunes store (you know you want to)! Thank you to the folks that have left reviews for the show on iTunes (Degenator and socialskills)! Joni from Florida sent in an email and asked if I have ever heard of using bay leaves to keep bugs away from kitchen cabinets. She found a website that talked about it here: I vaguely remember something about bay leaves and flour to keep bugs away, but I've never tried it myself. If you've tried it I'd love to hear if it works for you! Risotto! Risotto is a rice dish from northern Italy that's characterized by its creamy, luxurious consistency. Interestingly risotto gets that consistency without the use of cream, cheese, or butter (though those ingredients are often added to many risotto recipes). I love risotto and when I first discovered the traditional form my wife and I were at an Italian restaurant and I ordered osso bucco served over risotto milanese. The dish instantly became a favorite and whenever I see it on a menu (which is rarely) I have to order it. The contrast of a richly braised veal shank and creamy, parmesan laced risotto is almost too perfect. It's a dish I often mimic with a wine--braised chuck roast and risotto; pure bliss. The great thing about risotto is that there are as many variations as your creativity allows. While the basic preparations will be similar, you can tweak most of the building blocks and flavorings to suit your mood. Risotto can be vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, full of meat, loaded  with cheese, married with seafood, a starter, a main dish or side, etc. Risotto sounds like it would be quite difficult to make, but it isn't. It just requires a little attention. Basic Risotto Preparation Here is my basic risotto recipe Most risotto is made of the following base components: Oil/fat - Most typically olive oil or butter Aromatics - Onions or shallots, finely chopped (I like mine to be about the size of the rice grains). Rice - This is where it can get a little tricky, because risotto is not prepared with your typical long grain white rice. I have read blogs on the internet that swear you can use regular old white rice, but you'll have better (and more traditional) results if you use an arborio or carnaroli rice. Arborio is probably the most widely available in US supermarkets. Wine - I use white wine, like a pinot gris or sauvignon blanc. Broth or stock - Vegetable, chicken, beef, or even seafood stock would work. Your dish is going to get a ton of flavor from the broth/stock, so make sure you are using the best you can get. Start by heating the broth in a sauce pan until its simmering. Keep it at a low simmer for the duration of the cooking process. Take a heavy bottom saute pan over medium heat and start by sauteeing the onion. Add the rice and stir, making sure the grains get nicely coated with oil. This is going to help the consistency of the final dish. Add  white wine and stir frequently until the wine is absorbed by the rice. Start adding the simmering broth by ladle, and stirring and cooking until the broth is mostly absorbed before adding more. Repeat this process, stirring the rice until the rice is cooked completely, but still slightly firm to the bite (you don't want mushy risotto). Remove from the heat and finish as you wish (I usually add butter and some sort of cheese at this point). Some Risotto Ideas Here are some ideas for variations on risotto dishes. Some of these I've made, the others I just thought up. Again, you can really do anything you want! Three cheese risotto with parmesan, gruyere, and fontina cheeses Risotto Milanese (with saffron and parmesan) Shrimp risotto Risotto with pea puree Seared scallops and roasted red pepper risotto Risotto with yellow curry Red-wine braised beef over sharp white cheddar risotto Roasted butternut squash risotto Chicken risotto with rosemary Wild mushroom risotto Risotto with asparagus tips Risotto with honey roasted parsnip puree Here is the cookbook I mentioned that had that great risotto recipe for kids. If you have young children this is a great all-around cookbook. Many of the recipes are great for grown-ups too! Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes





7 Cooking Myths Exposed

November 26, 2014 • 28m

Leave me voice mail feedback at: 971-208-5493 Facebook: Twitter: @TKCpodcast Email: If you liked what you heard, please consider subscribing in iTunes. You can also help out the show by leaving a positive review in the iTunes store (you know you want to)! 7 Cooking Myths Exposed Impress your friends and family during the holidays by disabusing them of their long held notions about any one of the following cooking myths. Everyone loves the know-it-all, right? Of course I jest. But seriously, I still believed a couple of these before researching this episode (but I'm not going to tell you which ones)! If you have a cooking myth you'd like to share please get in touch with me; there were many more I didn't include in this episode for the sake of time.   Bay leaves are poisonous if eaten I'm not sure who first told me this but for the longest time I used bay leaves under the assumption that they were poisonous to people if eaten, and that was why you ALWAYS removed bay leaves from your dishes before serving. After all, who wants to be the home cook that inadvertently feeds a family member or guest poison? The good news is that this just simply isn't true. Bay leaves sold for culinary uses are completely safe to eat. Where did this myth originate? Well, it likely has to do with the bay leaf's similar appearance to the leaf of the Mountain Laurel, which is poisonous to humans and livestock. And even though the bay leaf that's been simmering in your stew for a few hours isn't poisonous, you should still remove it before serving because it can remain stiff and could cause a choking hazard for your guests. By the way, for my west coast friends; leaves of the Oregon Myrtlewood, aka California Bay Laurel, can be used as a substitute for bay leaves in recipes, but are much stronger and should be used in smaller quantities.   Searing meat locks in juice This is probably the most common myth out there when it comes to cooking meat. How many times have you heard that you should get a good sear on that steak so when it cooks it will seal in the juices? Unfortunately this just doesn't pass muster. First of all, it's practically impossible to perfectly sear every square inch of surface on meat, so how would you even be able to create a perfect "envelope" to seal the juices in? It doesn't matter anyway because searing has nothing to do with juiciness in particular, but it does go along way to more flavorful meat. When you sear meat it turns brown, a process known as the "Maillard Reaction." Time and temperature have the most impact on juicy meat, as the longer you cook it and to higher temps, the drier the meat will turn out regardless of whether you seared it first or not. America's Test Kitchen did an experiment to test out the "searing first to lock in juice" theory; check it out here.   Cold water boils faster than warm water This one is so counter intuitive, it's any wonder it's been able to stick around as long as it has. I was told long ago that when you put a pot of water on the stove to boil, you should start with cold water because it will actually come to boil more quickly than if you start with warm water. Absolutely under equal conditions a pot of warm water will come to a boil faster than a pot of cold water, so why would anyone think otherwise? Well, there may be some psychological factors at play. Cold water will actually absorb heat more quickly that warm water, but once the temperature starts to rise, it will absorb heat more slowly, ultimately taking just as long to come to a boil as warm water once it reaches the temperature that the warm water started at. How did this myth start? It may have had something to do with some old advice about always using cold water for cooking. Why? Because in older homes with lead pipes or pipe fittings, using hot water can release more lead particles into the water. Check out this great youtube video showing the science behind the warm vs. cold boil debate:   Alcohol completely cooks out of food How many times have you heard something like "don't worry, there isn't any alcohol left in that chicken marsala!" Oops, actually, there probably is. While it's true that alcohol cooks out of food to a large degree, it isn't likely that it all gets eliminated, unless you cook your dish for hours and hours. Generally there isn't enough alcohol in any dish to give you anything close to a buzz, but be aware that there are some folks that avoid alcohol for dietary or religious reasons. Here's a handy chart that shows you how much alcohol is retained with different cooking times and methods:   Store coffee in the freezer to keep it tasting fresh This one is for you coffee drinkers, and yes I know, it doesn't really have anything directly to do with cooking, but what the heck. I've heard that storing coffee beans or grounds in the fridge or freezer is best to preserve the flavor over time. Well it turns out the opposite is probably true. According to the US National Coffee Association, you want to keep your coffee away from excessive air, moisture, heat and light, in that order. Storing in the freezer or fridge will expose your coffee to excessive amounts of moisture which will deteriorate the flavor of the beans or grounds. Not to mention the fridge and freezer is home to all sorts of funky odors that can be absorbed by your coffee, affecting the taste. Their advice? Store your coffee in an airtight container, in a dark cool place, away from the stove or cabinets that are exposed to heat sources.   Cooking food in the microwave destroys nutrients Microwaves have long been scapegoats for a variety of problems, both real and imagined. It's been said that microwaving food, especially vegetables, destroys the nutrients in the food. The truth is that when you expose vegetables to heat, depending on the intensity, duration, and water content, nutritional value can be destroyed. This can happen regardless of what tool you use; microwave, stove top, oven, etc. But when it comes to microwaving, it turns out to be one of the best methods to retain the most nutrients! If you prepare broccoli for example in a microwave safe container with a tight lid, and a little water, you will essentially steam the broccoli and retain many nutrients. By the way, a related charge against microwaves is that it irradiates or "nukes" your food, making it less safe to eat. This too is not true. Microwave radiation is non-ionizing radiation, meaning it doesn't have enough energy to change the atomic makeup of your food, only enough energy to excite the electrons, therefore heating it up.   Pork must be cooked well done to be safe to eat Long long ago, in a galaxy far far away...well, not that far away...pork had to be cooked to a dry, leathery consistency to be considered safe to eat. You see, there was this nasty little worm called Trichanella spiralis which thrived in pigs and could be transferred to a person if they ate undercooked pork. This little worm would infest a person's intestines, reproduce, then eventually burrow through their guts into their muscles. Wow, lovely. The great news is that because of modern pig farming and pork processing regulations, trichinosis is pretty much a thing of the past. Because of that, most cuts of pork can be cooked to a lower temperature and therefore will be more tender and juicy than those old leathery bits you remember from your childhood. The USDA says you can cook whole muscle meat (including pork) to 145 degrees F, then let rest. Of course with any ground meats, pork sausage etc should still be cooked to 160 degrees F. Click here for everything you'd ever want to know about pork from the USDA.